I always want to be respectful of people’s feelings, even when I know with pain and discomfort it is all about perspective. Someone complaining about a nasty paper cut is something I can understand and sympathize along with the person. However, compared to someone having a limb amputated due to disease, the paper cut appears pretty minor; it is all about perspective. Last week was a challenging time for me. I am still a novice when it comes to doing things that are computer related and I had 2 online courses that had to be completed by October 1st. Without formal training on how to navigate the website, I felt lost as I struggled to find my way to taking and completing the courses. In fact on one site, every time after I logged in and clicked on the course title I was brought back to the login screen. Even trying it on a different computer and operating system ended with the same results; it was absolutely frustrating as I had to work with the site’s help desk as the clock was ticking. At the same time my day job was getting busier as we approached month end, so my mind was being heavily taxed to say the least. And if that was not enough I thought a birthday gift I had ordered online was missing as the birthdate was fast approaching. By the time Friday end of work rolled around it took all my energy just to go park the car and buy my theater ticket to see this dramatic adventure film. Right from the start my problems quickly disappeared as I saw what the main character had to endure in his situation. ABANDONED and left for dead astronaut Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon (Interstellar, Saving Private Ryan), realized he had to find a way to contact NASA and his crew before his food and supplies would run out. Mars was not going to be helpful in his endeavor. From director Ridley Scott (American Gangster, Black Hawk Down), this science fiction film was extra special because of its cast, which included Jessica Chastain (Mama, A Most Violent Year) as Melissa Lewis and Jeff Daniels (Dumb & Dumber franchise, Looper) as Teddy Sanders; everyone was outstanding with their characters. The other reason I was transported to Mars was due to the script; special effects took a back seat as I realized I was getting an abundance of technological jargon, but Matt made everything seem believable to me. Nothing seemed frivolous; I felt Ridley used a deft touch in letting the tension and drama play off of each other. There were some scenes where I was sitting on the edge of my seat in nervous anticipation and in the next moment I was sitting back as my eyes teared up. This picture absolutely took me away to a different place, besides adding a new perspective to this year’s batch of Oscar worthy movies. One brief scene showed blood in it.
Taken out from a religious context what does the phrase, “Let my people go,” bring to mind? For me it is Charlton Heston playing Moses in the film, The Ten Commandments. I was too young to understand everything about the movie, but several of its iconic scenes have been etched inside of my brain. It would be inconceivable to me to find someone who saw this film prior to the creation of current CGI effects, who was not struck with awe by the parting of the Red Sea. I can remember when we studied that time period in school; I would get confused when the lesson did not match what I remembered in the picture. There are just some films that remain with us for our entire life and this was one of them. So here was my dilemma: could I watch and review this dramatic adventure film without being biased. SURPRISINGLY I was able to sit through most of the action scenes without thinking about Charlton or Yul Brynner. The main reason was due to the special effects; the scope and expanse of the scenes were nearly overwhelming for me. I sat in my seat with stunned surprise at the amount of people used and especially the vast visual depth to the scenes. On a visual basis this film was beautiful, even though the 3D effects did not do much for me. Christian Bale (American Hustle, The Fighter) was excellent playing Moses as was Joel Edgerton (Warrior, Zero Dark Thirty) who played Ramses. However, Joel must have realized the script was quickly tanking as he became more of a caricature as the movie progressed. Directed by Ridley Scott (Gladiator, American Gangster), this film was all surface with no substance. I was saddened on how quickly I became bored with the uneven script that at times would be wonderful then quickly turn dreadful, especially due to the modern macho vibe. Though there was variety with the cast, I thought Ben Kingsley (Gandhi, Iron Man 3) as Nun and Sigourney Weaver (The Cabin in the Woods, Avatar) as Tuya were utterly wasted in this mess. I believe a good portion of the fault was due to having four writers working on the script. There was never a time where I felt emotionally moved by a scene. And of all scenes not able to stir me, the parting of the sea was such an anticlimactic moment for me. I wished the time spent on creating a visual feast would have gone more into the script; I was looking down at my watch a couple of times, which is never a good sign. To give the benefit of the doubt, maybe there are certain stories/movies that should never be remade. I am not sure; but with our technical prowess in special effects, if the movie studio would have spent more energy on the script this would have been a modern epic.
2 1/4 stars