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Stevens: ‘The Martian’ shares similar characteristics with other outer space movies

Editor’s note: This story contains spoilers for several movies, including “The Martian,” “Interstellar” and “Gravity.” 

While “The Martian” is a simple story, it’s one that makes you glad movies exist.

Based on the book of the same name by Andy Weir, Matt Damon stars as an astronaut named Mark Watney. After the rest of his crew thinks he is dead after being struck by debris during a windstorm on Mars, Watney is left behind on the red planet without means of communication to Earth. Watney is forced to turn 30 sols (Mars days) worth of equipment and rations into a renewable energy source until he could hopefully be rescued.

As The Wall Street Journal put it, “The Martian” is a mix of “Apollo 13” and “Castaway.” It balances the beautiful vastness of space with the human condition by showing how a great amount of people will spend a great amount of money, time and resources to rescue one life.

“The Martian” is the third film in three years set in outer space. The previous two, both released in the fall a year apart from one another, were 2013’s “Gravity” and 2014’s “Interstellar.”

Alfonso Cuarón directed the groundbreaking “Gravity” starring Sandra Bullock. “Gravity” is in a way, a slice of the story of “The Martian.” Ryan Stone’s (Sandra Bullock) journey is from space to Earth rather than Mars to space to Earth.

“Gravity’s” advantage over the other two films is its cinematic style and the camera’s relationship to the story. The opening shot goes uncut for 17 minutes, and there aren’t many more edits throughout the rest of the movie. The camera never leaves space but stays alongside Ryan for her whole journey home. “Gravity” has a first person feel that neither of the other two attempts. It’s the first of the “Space Drama” genre and it set a high bar.

“Interstellar” stands out the most from the pack. Director Christopher Nolan led his normal cast alongside Matthew McConaughey much further into space than either “The Martian” or “Gravity.” “Interstellar” is the most fiction of these science-fiction films and spends more time on earth than the other two combined.

Nolan takes Caurón’s cinematic creativity a step further and plays with the aspect ratios when the astronauts play with space and time. “Interstellar” definitely wins for the most emotionally riveting even though “Gravity” kills off George Clooney.

These three films set themselves up for comparison because of their similar settings and release dates. Yet, they have a few differences that make them all successful films standing alone.

“Gravity” is the artsy pioneer. It really only has two characters, so outer space itself hogs a lot of screen time. The heart and the story are there, but this is a movie made for visual purposes. That might sound like a put-down, but the spectacle makes it a great movie.

“Interstellar,” like “Gravity,” is made great by its visual effects, but unlike “Gravity,” it’s a completely new story. The relationship between time travel, love and space is woven together in a way completely unlike the other two films. The stakes of “Interstellar” are also much different. The other two films are about saving one life, while “Interstellar” is about both saving the human race and the relationship between a father and his daughter.

“The Martian” is a book-to-film adaptation that has been one of the first to be described as better than the book. The ensemble cast is multi-generational (Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover) and the film is created soundly by proven and legendary director Ridley Scott (“Blade Runner”, “Alien”, “Blackhawk Down”). “The Martian” is the simplest movie of the three and the hardest to hate.

Kyle Stevens is a sophomore advertising major. You can email him at ksteve03@syr.edu or reach him on Twitter at @kstevs_.

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