Finding Dory

Finding Dory is a 2016 computer-animated comedy family film starring Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolance, Ed O’Neil, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, and Gene Levy. It is a sequel to the 2003 film Finding Nemo. Finding Dory  was directed by Andrew Stanton, the director of Finding Nemo, A Bug’s Lifeand Wall-EStanton also wrote the films he has directed, as well as writing all three of the Toy Story films and Monsters, Inc. He also provides several small roles in various Pixar films, including the bug that gets zapped in A Bug’s Life, Emperor Zurg in Toy Story 2, Fred in Cars, and most notably Crush the Sea Turtle in Finding Nemo and Finding Dory.

Whereas almost all of Pixar’s original films are great (I say almost having not yet seen The Good Dinosaur), the sequels are a mixed bag. In fact, the only Pixar sequels that are good are the Toy Story franchise. Cars 2 was a wreck and Monsters University was a forgettable film that crapped all over the original by being a prequel rather than a sequel and telling a boring story that didn’t really need to be told. My theory is that the Toy Story sequels are successful and good because, unlike the other sequels, Toy Story seems to have made an effort to keep the original behind the scenes crew on board, especially Stanton, who seems to be Pixar’s ace in the hole. On a side note, I hope my theory proves correct with The Incredibles 2 and the decision to keep the wonderfully talented and artistically varied Brad Bird on as director and writer of both the story and the screenplay (as he was with the original) is an indicator that the film will be just as incredible as the original.

Finding Nemo came out in 2003, when I was 8 years old, and it was awesome. It was great like all of Pixar’s original films, it seems. I still get enjoyment out of it to this day. A year later, The Spongebob Squarepants Movie came out, which was also great.In 2015, Spongebob Squarepants: A Sponge Out of Water premiered… and RUINED MY CHILDHOOD!!!! SOILED IT!!!! I do not remember seeing a worse movie that year, or at least a movie that angered me on such a deep level. That film took the best TV series of my young life… and crushed it. So thanks… thanks for nothing.

Full disclosure, I have the first three seasons of Spongebob Squarepants on my hard drive to watch at my viewing pleasure. Fair warning, as a vehement defender of Spongebob circa 1999-2005, I am going to go off on a tangent completely unrelated to Finding Dory.

Spongebob Squarepants was created by oceanographer and animator Stephen Hillenburg. Hillenburg and a few others also single-handedly wrote the episodes. The series was a smash hit that took the world by storm and is to this day ingrained in pop culture. The series was so huge, they made a film in 2005. This was meant to be the end of the series, but the movie was too huge, so Nickelodeon had to keep Spongebob going, much to Hillenburg’s dismay. So they fired him and all the original writers, so now instead of having brilliant jokes like this….

Spongebob now has no jokes at all and has turned into an unwatchable piece of crap. Spongebob 2006-present is god-awful, but 1999-2005 was the best thing ever for my generation, and I will defend it to the death.

I’ve heard very good things about Finding Dory, but after the travesty of Sponge Out of Water, I had a healthy sense of skepticism. That skepticism, as well as knowing full well I would have to deal with a multitude of small children in the theater (I understand it’s a kids movie, I’m just REALLY not a fan of kids) is honestly why I have been dragging my feet to see this movie.

Luckily, this movie is amazing. In many ways, it was even better than Finding Nemo. As is usual for Pixar, the film opened with a short called PiperBoth Piper and Finding Dory were breathtakingly and painstakingly animated. I’m going to nerd out here, fair warning, but we have gotten to the point were computer animation can render individual grains of sand!!! That is amazing! Also the feather effects in Piper were extremely well done. In both films, the water effects were mind-blowing. Water, for various reasons relating to how dynamic and fluid water is, is the Holy Grail of computer animation. I went with my friends Kyle and Alec, both computer science majors, and during the credits (all great movies are now required post-credits scenes), when the water effects people were listed, they both said “That’s what I would want to be.” Being able to animate water well is the nerd version of Olympic Gold. Everything else in the film is also brilliant. The physics, the character movements, the characters themselves, everything is perfect. The character of Hank the Septopus alone took Pixar 2 years. Every single piece of animation is utterly brilliant and I have no complaints on that end, whatsoever.

Having spent pretty much the entirety of my twenty years on Earth watching movies, I’ve turned into somewhat of a movie cynic. I like my movies adult and dark. This isn’t because I am a heartless cynic in real-life, quite the opposite, in fact. I don’t like happy movies because the majority of the time (UNBROKEN), there’s no true emotion in them. Movies like that usually pander to get people to think they enjoy it, when oftentimes, there’s no truth in anything about it. There’s no pandering to a cynic. I’m pretty sure  that’s impossible by definition. There seems to be more passion in Guillermo del Toro or Denis Villeneuve on their worst days than anything Angelina Jolie has ever directed or will ever direct. It’s sad, but true, and makes me a little angry.

Finding Dory, on the other hand, gave this movie cynic a little hope for the industry. It is a genuinely emotional, impactful movie that hit me on more levels than I was ever expecting. To be honest, after going back and watching Finding Nemo, though it was still a great and touching film, I find it didn’t hit me as much as Pixar’s other work. Finding Dory, however, is tear-inducingly tragic, uplifting, humorous, and heartfelt. In most movies, again due to pandering and lack of creativity, making the sidekick the main character almost never works and the movie is terrible. Dory is a really fleshed out, interesting, and relatable character, so it works to amazing effect.

The first line of the film is Dory as a small child reciting “Hi. I’m Dory, and I suffer from short-term memory loss.” This is what she is supposed to say if she ever needs help. The overriding theme of the film is disability and overcoming the limitations of said disability, and I honestly haven’t seen that executed in a (good) film ever up until this point, and that puts a smile on my face. One year after the events of Finding Nemo, the lovable yet forgettable Dory starts Jason Bourne-style remembering that she had a family in “the Jewel of Moro Bay, California,” the fictional Marine Life Institute (fish hospital). After Dory’s parents use seashells to train and improve Dory’s memory, Dory’s mother Jenny (voiced by Diane Keaton) tells Dory that purple seashells are her favorite.One thing Dory has extreme difficulty remembering is to stay away from the undertow. Dory’s parents try everything, to no effect. That evening, Jenny and Charlie have an emotional breakdown, worried that, because of Dory’s memory issues, she will never be able to live on her own. This hit a nerve with me. I am a student at the University of Illinois, but before I got there, I had thoughts like these, possibly moreso than my parents did. Well, they probably did, they just didn’t want to freak me out, but whatever. Dory sees her parents upset, and seeks out a purple seashell to make her Mom happy; she is swept away by the undertow and lost. She then spends the rest of her formative years since that point trying to find her way back to her parents, which is a futile effort due to her memory loss. She perserveres until running into Marlin, setting off the events of Nemo and forgetting about her quest.

Dory, having partially recovered her memory, recruits Nemo and a very reluctant Marlin to join her quest. After Nemo is injured due to Dory’s actions, Marlin snaps and tells her to “Go away and forget. That’s all you’re good at.” The somewhat saddened yet undeterred Dory goes to the surface to find help and is captured and taken to the Marine Life Institute. This devestates the guilty Marlin. The film then follows Marlin and Nemo’s quest to get to Dory and Dory’s quest to get to her parents. Along the way, they all three meet an interesting, loveable, and hilarious cast of new characters while Dory ultimately learns to cope with her disability and even use it to her advantage.

I saw this movie with my best friend Kyle, his roomate Alec, and my little brother Alex sitting next to me. That’s three twentysomethings and a sixteen-year-old. I kid you not, we laughed harder and louder than anyone in the theater, and I am not ashamed of that at all. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, so I will just say this. There’s an octopus missing an arm who’s sneaky, paranoid, crabby, and afraid of the ocean voiced by Ed O’Neil from Modern Family, a nearsighted whale voiced by Kate Olson, a Beluga whale with a psycosomatic case of broken echolocation voiced by Ty Burrell, also from Modern Family, a couple who find a young Dory voiced by SNL alums Kate McKinnon and Bill Hader, and a pair of laid back stoner-ish sea otters played by Idris Elba and Dominic West, who co-starred together on the legendary HBO police drama The Wire as organized crime lieutenant Stringer Bell and protagonist Detective Jimmy McNulty, respectively. (You didn’t need that information, but I can’t resist plugging The Wire.) You probably want to see it based on that cast list alone (you should), and that isn’t even the full list of people. I will spoil a small bit that had all of us dying from laughter. People in the theater probably looked at us like we were insane throughout the movie. There’s a scene where Dory ends up in the Kids’ Zone, and the entire sequence is stylized like a horrifying monster movie, with terrified sea creatures desperately trying to avoid “the hands” and being forcefully grabbed and yanked by the children. There are screams of “My Legs!!!” and horrifying gutteral noises all set to a Jaws-style instrumental overture. One starfish is grabbed by his legs and drug away while he screams in agony a la the infamous “under the bed” scene from Taken. The people at Pixar, more specifically Andrew Stanton, know how to appeal to everyone in the audience, not just a certain section of it.

Finding Dory surpassed all my expectations. It managed to do what sequels rarely accomplish, something that is even rarer for a comedy/family movie, and that is to be better than the original in every possible way. The trailers in front of this movie were all utter garabage. They were so bad that I remember every single one. There was Pete’s Dragon, Moana, Sing, Ghostbusters, Nine Lives, Middle School: The Worst Years of My Lifeand Monster Trucks. The Monster Trucks trailer had us red in the face, dying laughing. Kyle was at that stage mid-laugh attack where everything that comes out of your mouth will be high-pitched and whiney, going “Was that just real?” I haven’t seen a new kid’s movie in the theater since Sponge Out of Water, and trailers like this are why. Moana has potential, but it was still a bad trailer. The rest of them were worthy of SNL. No, Kyle, I have no idea what is reality anymore. That’s how bad these were. I had my head in my hands, asking “Why do I go to these things?” Finding Dory is why. As horrible as the trailers in front of it were, and as horrible as kid’s movies have been in the last few years (Planes, Planes 2, Cars 2, Turbo, all of which I’ve seen), Finding Dory reminded me they’re not all bad, even though it can sometimes seem like it. It is a film that did what few films can do: it woke up my perpetually comatose inner child and got me feeling nostalgic about my childhood, and if you know me, you understand why that is such a magnificent feat. Finding Dory, armed with an unexpectedly deep and profound message that connected with me on pretty much every emotional level, as well as excellently crafted humor and jokes that almost made my chest burst, has convinced me to go and watch Inside Out and Zootopia, two critically acclaimed family films I will begrudgingly admit I haven’t seen because of the “family movie” stigma. Finding Dory isn’t a “family movie.” Really good “family movies” like this and like everything else Andrew Stanton has ever done for Pixar aren’t family movies and don’t deserve that staple. They are “everyone” movies. That should be a new offical film category for the family movies that are actually good and don’t deserve to be lumped in with the crap. Finding Dory is a movie for everyone, and everyone should go see it.


Saving Private Ryan

Saving Private Ryan is a 1998 epic war drama film directed by Steven Speilberg and written by Roger Rodat. The film features an ensemble cast of Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Batty Pepper, Vin Diesel, Adam Goldberg, Giovanni Ribisi, Paul Giamatti, Jeremy Davis, and Matt Damon. The film follows the story of Captain John Miller, played by Tom Hanks. Captain Miller arrives in Normandy by the way of Omaha Beach. Following that particularly harrowing experience, Miller and the surviving members of his 2nd Ranger Battalion are ordered to retrive one Private James Francis Ryan, the last surviving of four Ryan brothers.

Saving Private Ryan is arguably the most well-known and most well-recieved war film of all time. This is a film that is executed to the numbers, not unlike an actual military operation. This is, in my opinion, Spielberg’s greatest work thus far. The man knows how to make a movie, and since everyone knows this, he is given carte blanche to create his own artistic vision, unlike some visionaries. The Omaha Beach scene, the first scene featured in the film, was an inheirently massive undertaking that only a handful of direcors would be able to handle.Luckily, Spielberg is one of those directors and he handles the scene flawlessly, working tirelessly to logistically coordinate the single greatest World War II battle scene in cinema history, thanks in large part to the excellent work of Janusz Kaminski. I am assuming that the strength of this scene alone netted Saving Private Ryan several award nominations and wins; Saving Private Ryan won Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Film Editing at the 71st Annual Academy Awards and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Leading Actor, Best Art Direction, Best Makeup, Best Original Dramatic Score, and Best Original Screenplay.

Saving Private Ryan, on top of being near-flawless from a technical perspective, is also flawlessly acted. Hanks, Sizemore, Burns, and Pepper all give great performances here. I have never liked Vin Disel and never will, but that is neither here nor there.

The screenplay by Roger Rodat is immpecable, and there are several themes explored throughout the movie, both surface level and deeper, that make the film and the script work. Saving Private Ryan is an excellent war film, but it is also an excellent drama film.

Saving Private Ryan does things that, to my knowledge, no movie has been able to do right since. It is at the same time pro and anti-war. There have been more films made about World War II then there have been of any other American-involved war. The reason for that is, despite whatever you may believe about any war that came after it, World War II absolutely and unequivocally needed to be fought. I am very pro-troops; I have several friends who are in the service and admire their work and dedication to their country. Having said that, they are my friends and they are friends, and more importantly, family to many other people. I am one who generally believes you should try never to start fights, but if necessary, be the one to end it. We were attacked. The famous Pearl Harbor attacks launched this country into World War II. We didn’t start the fight, but we sure ended it. World War II kickstarted our domestic industries and catapaulted us out of the Great Depression and into a height of economic prosperity I am unsure we’ve been able to reach since. It cemented the U.S.A as a world superpower. Since then, all we seem to do is start fights, usually over a political/religious ideaology, not a tyrannical government, and those types of wars have no end. Ideas never go away. People can die and governments can topple, but ideologies don’t go away, and more importantly, at their most basic level, do not cause physical harm to anyone in the way the Pearl Harbor bombs did. War means that people, potentially my friends, are going off to die, and that is NEVER an OK thing. I don’t mean to say World War II didn’t need to happen. Under the circumstances, I would have signed the Declaration of War myself, but that doesn’t make it a good thing.

Saving Private Ryan understands this. The Omaha Beach scene is a truly horrific and true to life depiction of undeniably senseless carnage and blood that caused the grusome deaths of many on both sides. The film, however, is in agreement as to the war needing to be fought, that much is clear. The Nazis were evil and did evil things; America was there for the right reasons. As right as those reasons can be, anyway. With Rodat’s excellent script, Saving Private Ryan walks a delicate tightrope of being pro-WWII and anti-war-in-general. This is not the overarching theme in the film, however.

The overarching theme is perserverence despite futility. The mission to save Ryan WAS FUBAR. The mission to save James Ryan was not ordered out of tactical importance. Private James Ryan was not of critical importance to the operations in Normandy. The order came down because of emotions evoked in a high-ranking officer hundreds of miles away from the battlefield after reading Lincoln’s Bixby Letter. I understand the importance of the Sole Survivor Policy, but Ryan was MIA somewhere in extremely hostile territory, and at some point, I think the further loss of life wouldn’t be worth it. However, Miller and his team, abiet begrudgingly, follow orders.

This theme carries out all the way up until Miller’s climactic and dramatic death.

That tank isn’t going down, but Miller does not give up without a fight. Saving Private Ryan is a war film that isn’t really about war. Primarily, I think, the film is about heroism in the face of adversity. War is a bad thing, and not something anyone should endorse. Heroism, though, is an ideal that defined the entire World War II generation, and “heroic” is something I feel more and more people should aspire to be. This movie doesn’t say “Kill the evil Nazis.” This isn’t a movie about killing or being killed, and that’s why it works so well when so many other war films today. in my opinion, don’t.

Saving Private Ryan is a legendary film, and rightfully so. It is a technical masterpeice of the highest order crafted by one of the best modern directors to ever step behind the camera. Where it really shines, though, is thematically. It dismisses war without dismissing the war and tells a story about heroism and adversity instead of straightforward goood vs. evil. It is for these reasons Saving Private Ryan is an endlessly rewatchable film on both national holidays and even on days that are not national holidays.

Gone, Baby, Gone

Gone, Baby, Gone is a 2007 neo-noir mystery drama film directed by Ben Affleck in his directorial debut. The screenplay was written by Affleck and Aaron Stockard and was adapted from the 1998 novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, author of Mystic River and Shutter Island, both adapted to their own critically acclaimmed films in 2003 by Clint Eastwood and 2010 by Martin Scorsese, respectively. The film stars Ben’s brother Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, and John Aston.

Gone, Baby, Gone is set in Boston, and tells the story of local private detective Patrick Kenzie and his girlfriend Angie Gennaro. Kenzie is a very likeable and down to Earth guy who grew up in the neighborhood and up until this point had successfully handled usual run-of-the-mill missing person cases using friends and connections in the neighborhood. Amanda McCready is a four-year-old girl who has gone missing. Her aunt and uncle, Bea and Lionel McCready, hire Kenzie and Gennaro to augment the investigation of Amanda. Amanda’s mother is Helene Mccready, an arrogant and abrasive drug addict who does not seem to care about anything. The case is being investigated by the steadfast Captain Jack Doyle and Detective Sargeant Remy Bressant and his partner Detective Nick Poole. It is discovered that Amanda was abducted by a violent, sociopathic Haitian drug lord named “Cheese.” From that point on, the rather idealistic Kenzie and Gennaro are wrapped up in a web of mystery and decit where nothing is as it seems and no one can be trusted.

Ben Affleck is a masterful director, writer, and actor, and I never understood why people seem to hate him. I don’t see a reason to. With that being said, his brother is more “likeable” and can play more relatable characters it seems. Ben is an excellent Bruce Wayne/Batman, but Casey, much like Patrick Kenzie, seems like a normal, relatable dude. Casey’s likeability is further amplified ny his brother’s flawless script and perfect directing. From the opening sequence alone, which quickly and effectively introduces the setting and the feelings and motovations of everyman Patrick Kenzie, it’s undeniable that Ben Affleck is one seriously talented dude.

This is a movie where everything about it (the movie itself, not the plot, that gets nuts) goes just right. All of the actors and actresses are great, but Ben Affleck’s directing is honestly the true star here. The man knows what he’s doing. He can make a scene intense, endearing, emotional, or balls to the wall insane. It all depends on what is needed or is appropriate, and since he wrote the movie as well, he knows exactly what is needed.

The Affleck Brothers grew up in Massechusets near Boston, (where Ben became BFFs with Matt Damon) so it isn’t suprising, yet still very impressive, that Casey is able to nail the Bostonian accent and Ben’s directing and script is able to perfectly encapsulate the nature of the neighborhood of Dochester; it’s a crappy and seedy neighborhood full of seedy, unsavory, and tough characters, and if you go around asking questions, you best be packin’ heat.

It is clear here that both of the Affleck Brothers know what they’re doing. I really can’t say enough about how talented Ben is as a director. Everything in this film fits like a well-oiled machine. I have no negatives to bring up. Sometimes, there are movies that are so good, it’s hard to extrapolate anything to talk about. Gone, Baby, Gone is one of those movies. Even a hip-hop artist like Slaine, who has a minor role as a drug dealer and close friend of both Kenzie and Gennaro, comes off well. Of course, having also had a role in Affleck’s second directorial effort, The Town (which I am reviewing later today and will come back and link to here), I think Slaine just might also be a suprisingly good actor, but you get my point.

There is tension from the start of this movie to the end, wether having a conversation with a sociopathic drug lord…

Or the uncaring, oblivious, addicted mother of a missing child…

But this movie isn’t just talk. When stuff hits the fan, this movie doesn’t mess around.

Sometimes, movies succeed because of the actirs involved. Sometimes, they succeed from a great story. Sometimes, they succeed because of the man behind the camera. Gone, Baby, Gone succeeds so well because of alll three of those things. I still feel that this Oscar-nominated and award-winning film is underrated. It ended up on several top ten lists in 2007, but I don’t know of anyone else who has seen it. Gone, Baby, Gone is possibly the best movie in its genre since L.A. Confidential, and you should definitely go watch it.

RANT: As you may notice, it’s been five days since my last review. It’s the longest I’ve gone since posting a review in quite some time. Well, you can thank YouTube for that. You see, I like to add clips of movies to go along with my reviews to illustrate my point. Sometimes, I can’t find a clip that I want, so I make it myself and upload it to Youtube. That is perfectly legal and falls under fair use, but YouTube’s content ID system is entirely automated, so the computer just looks at the video I’ve uploaded and says “That’s from a movie! Block!” I’m the type of guy who won’t let that go. With this reviw, I wanted to upload the full interrogation of Helene McCready, the full shootout scene, the bar scene, the scene with Cheese, and the opening monologue. The opening monologue and the bar scene are tagged as “including copyrighted content,” but never got blocked, and the Cheese scene I found on YouTube and didn’t have to upload it. But the full interrogation scene and the full shootout scene got blocked worldwide, even though I put this in the description of every video I upload.

Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use. This is a non-monetized video for the purposes of review only.

That’s right. I looked up copyright law statutes. Sue me! Oh, wait, you can’t! BAHAHAHAHA!!! I disputed the takedowns, but copyright disputes can take up to thirty days, so for now, you get the stupid, abridged, hacked to pieces versions of the scenes I wanted to show you. YouTube is dumb.

So I’m gonna keep attempting to upload clips for various movies, and when and if I win the Gone, Baby, Gone disputes, I’ll update this post and replace them. YouTube is dumb. Did I mention YouTube is dumb? Because YouTube is dumb!!!!

The Martian vs. Interstellar (Part I: The Martian) [Spoilers]

Some time ago, a friend of mine saw The Martian. She seemed very iffy on the subject and stated that Interstellar is still her favorite modern sci-fi film. I have seen, and ultimately enjoyed, both films, but my viewings of the two were so far apart that I cannot accurately say which one I liked better without a rewatch of both. As a kneejerk reaction, I told her I enjoyed The Martian more, but I am not sure if that is technically true. As such, I have been inspired to perform a review of both films, I guess we shall see. Part I will be my review of The Martian, Part II will be a review of Interstellar, and Part III will be a comparison and conclusion.


The Martian is a 2015 science fiction film based upon the novel of name by Andy Weir.It was directed by Ridley Scott and written by Drew Goddard. It starred Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Donald Glover, Sean Bean, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. The Martian takes place in the near future; Matt Damon plays a NASA astronaut and botanist named Mark Watney. Watney is a crew member on the Ares 3 mission to Mars. After a hectic, destructive sandstorm, Watney is left behind and presumed dead by his distraught colleagues. Watney, unbeknownst to them, survived the sandstorm and must survive long enough to return to Earth on Ares 4. The closest comparison I can make is the novel Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, but in space.

Ridley Scott is to the science-fiction genre what Alfred Hitchcock was to the thriller genre. Scott only has three previous science-fiction films in his filmography, but considering that those are 1979’s Alien1982’s Blade Runnerand 2012’s Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s contributions towards revolutionizing the genre are completely and utterly undebatable and unquestionable.Despite the jury still being out on the redeeming qualities of Prometheus to this day, you can’t really argue Ridley Scott isn’t a sci-fi mastermind after scenes like…

In addition to directing two of the single most iconic genre films ever, Scott has also directed the Oscar-winning historical drama Gladiator, the war film Black Hawk Down, and, although universally panned upon release, Scott’s 2005 historical epic Kingdom of Heaven has been met with widespread critical acclaim upon the release of the director’s cut of the film. He is an extremely talented director who can make great things out of anything, and seeing how Weir’s novel entertained the crap out of me, The Martian had great potential, and it lived up to that potential, in my opinion.

Let no one tell you otherwise, The Martian is a genuinely beautiful film. As a stand-in for Mars, the film was shot in the Wadi Rum valley in Jordan, a cultural landmark under environmental protection by the United Nations. The landscape is just beautiful and, on the plus side, does look a lot like Mars. It is clear that Scott is in his element here. The cinematography by Dariusz Wolski is truly breathtaking. Unlike Prometheus, there wasn’t an overuse of CGI, and the practically designed interior design of the Hab as well as the Hermes were very impressive and seemed to be a throwback to the impressive set design from Alien.

In addition to being a marvelous technical achievement, The Martian also benefits from a believable, heartfelt, and hilarious script by Drew Goddard, which draws quite well from the equally as well-constructed novel. The Martian is, by the very nature of the plot, a rather dire and perilous scenario where you would not expect to find any levity. Luckily, Mark Watney is a character who, in addition to being a genius, survives on humor, sarcasm, and most importantly, hope. Weir, and Scott by extension, could have framed The Martian as a dire tale of hopelessness and drama in the face of overwhelming odds, and woven a very cynical tale. Instead, The Martian goes in the complete opposite direction and tells a genuinely uplifting story about positivity, perseverance, and ingenuity in the face of dire and dismal circumstances. Several lines from the novel are transported directly into the film, with the very human and hilarious lines delivered wonderfully by Matt Damon.

The acting in this film is very, very impressive, with standout performances from Damon, Chastain, and Daniels. The most notable scene in terms of acting came early in the film, when Watney is forced to personally remove shrapnel from his abdomen after frantically returning to the HAB. Matt Damon looks as though he is actually in severe pain. It is a truly harrowing scene to watch, and a very impressive one, at that. Sustained, sharp pain that one would feel from having a fractured antenna inside of them would be hard, nearly impossible, for some actors to pull off to the point of believability. It most certainly is believable.

On the subject of believability, much like Weir’s heavily researched novel, The Martian, for the most part, remains both scientifically accurate and accurate to the novel itself. The one issue I have with this film pertains to the last 20 minutes of the film, which contain a complicated action set piece with questionable scientific accuracy and an epilogue in which Watney now trains NASA recruits given the reputation he received throughout the course of the film. I have said this before and will continue to say it; when adapting material from one medium to another, it will oftentimes be necessary to change or alter things from the original medium (a 369 page novel) to appropriately convert it to the other (a 141 minute film). You, therefore, cannot, and should not, judge a film by its rigid following of the original material, and should judge the film upon its own merits. In The Martian, the problem is not the fact that the film diverges from the novel, it is the fact that these sequences are included because nearly every blockbuster movie of this type has to 1. have an intense climax and 2. a happy ending. The film’s suspenseful and frantic ending scene is serviceable enough and there is nothing wrong with it on the surface, but it completely goes against the intellectually driven, scientifically based, well thought out narrative established by the film, and is a rather glaring blemish on what would otherwise be an almost flawless movie and faithful novel adaptation.

The novel ends with Watney going home, a happy enough ending in my opinion. The film takes it a step further and, though I assumed that Watney would end up in a similar situation upon finishing the novel, the film takes it one step too far and ends up preaching on the themes established in the film. Though a very minor issue, I feel as though the final speech given by Watney to the NASA cadets could have been tweaked in order to make it feel more like a technical classroom rather than a commencement speech.

The Martian is an impressive film that I feel was more than worthy of its praise. It is a marvelous technical achievement by Scott, a director known for achievement, and cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, who will more than likely be on the radar of film buffs after this. The script to the film, barring a few missteps, is excellent and made for one of the funnier movies of the year, as well as one of the most engrossing. The Martian is a very good film and everyone would be wise to give it a watch, if you haven’t already.