There seems to be a theme with the sci-fi movies released in the past couple of years. Gravity, Interstellar and The Martian all have different storylines but which was our favourite? Words: Yeganeh Ameri, Subeditor: Lauren Burgess
The Martian: ★★★★★★★★★☆
Sci-fi movies date back to the 1960s, which sounds pretty shocking considering no CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) was used. But we’ve been curious about what’s ‘out there’ for centuries and when the Soviets launched their first satellite, Sputnik 1, into space, mankind began to create stories about the unknown world. However, this isn’t a physics lesson, it’s a film article, so we’ll be looking at the three recent sci-fi blockbusters that blew our minds.
It’s only fair to begin with the oldest of the bunch, Gravity, which came out in 2013 (UK) and was directed and written by Mexican producer Alfonso Cuarón. But scripting was still a collaborative effort, Cuarón wrote the script with his son Jonas and said in an interview that George Clooney helped craft a pivotal scene that they’d been having trouble with. The premise is pretty simple, medical engineer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are on a mission in space. There’s a third astronaut but he’s irrelevant as we hardly see him and he dies in the first 10 minutes. General views of this film may be slightly biased due to George Clooney blessing us with his presence, however, what sort of name is Matt Kowalski?! Sounds an awful lot like Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc.
In the first 10 minutes we are already being terrorised because the astronauts are attacked by satellite debris. So Dr Stone is thrown away from the space craft, the irrelevant astronaut is killed and Matt takes control and becomes the Superman of the situation. The CGI and camera angles used in this film are sensational, and possibly the best out of the three we’re discussing.
Anyway, Matt saves her, they try to reach the Russian space station and do a little bonding on the way which is when we find out Dr Stone lost her 8-year-old daughter to a head injury. They face more complications which leads to Matt unhooking himself from Dr Stone in order to save her and floating away into the silence of space. This was probably as emotional as the scene in Titanic where Rose lets go of Jack. At this point, I’m crying and wondering how on Earth she’s planning to survive without Matt.
When she manages to finally get inside the space station, there’s a scene where she begins to breathe oxygen again and resembles a foetus.
I guess they were trying to portray life and our need for oxygen or it could be showing her vulnerability and loneliness in space. She is the strongest female out of the characters in all three films as she manages to fight her fears and do it all on her own. You do begin to realise though that she is struggling to deal with loss and a fear of death.
She lands back on Earth and survives. Gravity had the best CGI effects, brilliant sound quality and the music throughout added the right amount of suspense. The movie felt quite short compared to the other two as everything happened pretty quick but not in an overwhelming way. In fact, the drama, suspense and outcome were all well-balanced throughout. It wasn’t enjoyable hearing Sandra Bullock screaming “ahh ahh” and spinning around all the time. Playing with our emotions by killing off George Clooney’s character and then bringing him back as a hallucination, wasn’t cool either.
You know what else wasn’t cool? Interstellar. Christopher Nolan is my all time favourite director who has continued to produce brilliant, original movies. However, I was left completely disappointed with Interstellar. The script and idea came from Nolan’s brother Jonathan and they worked together for years to produce it. The film is about humans trying to find another place to live since life on Earth is slowly becoming impossible to sustain. So NASA send a couple of astronauts which include Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), Brand (Anne Hathaway) and other irrelevant ones out into space to find another place for humans to move to. This will however, take many years and it means that Cooper will not be able to watch his kids Murph and Tom grow up. (Who names their daughter Murph?!)
This movie is over 2 hours long and the whole time, other than trying to understand what Matthew McConaughey is trying to say and being unable to hear him through the extremely loud sound effects, it is also impossible to understand what the plot of the story is. They attempt to skid past a black-hole. Really? NASA really let them use their name to justify something as ridiculous as this? Scientifically, the majority of the plot is wrong. It feels like no proper research was done in the making of this movie and they decided to make it a fantasy instead of portraying a more realistic approach like in Gravity.
Unlike Dr Stone in Gravity, Brand (again, a stupid name) has gone for the ‘strong independent woman’ haircut, but disappoints us when we find out her mission all along was to save her boyfriend and the ending hints towards a future romantic involvement with Cooper. How pathetic.
Also, who decides to cast Matt Damon as the villain?! He looks like a puppy, hardly what you’d call a convincing villain. Bad choices made there. I couldn’t decide if that annoyed me more or the stupid robot called TARS which looked like a badly formed block of lego built by a 5 year-old and moved around in the most idiotic manner. Surely, they could’ve picked up some robot building skills from the Doctor Who team? Even Disney could’ve done a better job.
The message Nolan was trying to put out is clear and serious; we need to begin looking after planet Earth more otherwise we WILL have to find somewhere else to live but surely, Mars is closer and safer to get to, no?
Which leads me perfectly to the most recent sci-fi, The Martian that came out this year. Directed by Ridley Scott and based on the book by Andy Weir, it stars our very baby-faced Matt Damon who we are constantly trying to save.
Judging from the movie title, I was expecting aliens in this but sadly it seems in all these recent Sci-fis, aliens are non-existent. It’s also slightly ironic how this movie was released a week after NASA announced that they found water on Mars. I see what you did there Scott.
Just like the rest, shit goes down in space and Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is abandoned on Mars and we get to witness him topless in the first 10 minutes. (YASS!) What’s more appealing about this movie is the strong connection the character Mark builds with the audience as the majority of his dialogue is said through the space shuttle’s webcam. He has to learn to survive on Mars alone due to NASA, funnily enough, not checking their messages as frequently as you think they would.
Mark begins to grow potatoes from his own shit. Yes, literally, his own dumps. Which is a great tip for when we decide to migrate to Mars I guess. TBH, he makes survival on Mars look pretty simple as he seems to have the solution for everything. NASA is portrayed quite negatively though, which I’m surprised NASA didn’t complain about. In the movie they seemed to care more about their reputation in the media than trying to save Mark. It was also pretty awkward how they had to get help from the Chinese and a student because all the big brains of the organisation were clearly, no help.
What’s great about this movie is that it takes you through all kinds of emotions and we feel it all with the character Mark. He makes us laugh, cry, worry, and clap like a seal when he’s saved. Matt Damon is absolutely brilliant in this film. Other than the poor soundtrack (who even plays ABBA and The Beatles in a movie like this?) The Martian proved to us after Interstellar that the genre Sci-fi has not merged with fantasy and become a joke. Sci-fi is our escape from this world into the world of the possible future and The Martian reflects this perfectly.