There are a lot of movies out there that take a negative stance on humanity. Just look at this year’s Sicario, a brilliant film, but one that certainly doesn’t show people in a positive light. Maybe that’s why The Martian feels so refreshing. It’s a hugely entertaining and uplifting crowd-pleaser that shows how the fate of a single man can bring so many people together. Director Ridley Scott tackles the project and adds yet another fantastic sci-fi film to his outstanding résumé. A great story, awesome visuals and a star-studded cast only further elevate this tale of survival and make The Martian a must-see movie-going experience for everyone.

The crew of a NASA mission to Mars is doing research on the red planet when they’re hit by a devastating storm. They scramble to evacuate from the planet’s surface, but on their walk to the ship, botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is hit by debris and presumed to be dead. The crew leaves the planet heartbroken. But what they don’t know is that Watney actually survived the storm and is now stranded on the planet by himself. His food supplies are limited and he knows that he’ll need to figure out a way to grow food on the planet if he hopes to survive. He also needs to figure out how to obtain water on such a desolate landscape. And if he’s unable to regain communication with anyone on Earth, all of his effort to survive will be for nothing. According to Watney, “I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this.”

Based on the novel by Andy Weir, The Martian is a tale of survival, pure and simple. Unlike a lot of sci-fi films, it doesn’t attempt any outstanding concepts or truly unique themes. This is just a story about a man stranded on Mars and the men and women who attempt to rescue him. It actually feels nice to watch a film with such a simple premise and this also gives the film far less chances to stumble, which it rarely does. The few moments in the script that could come across as cheesy include a love story between two crew members and Watney’s distaste for disco music, but the great performances and Scott’s direction ensure that these moments are never eye rolling.

The film jumps right into the action and begins with a bang, opening with our crew already on Mars and quickly having to deal with the massive storm that is approaching. From here, we spend a lot of time with Watney, who is dealing with his situation in the most optimistic manner possible. He rarely seems to get discouraged and watching him use science to survive on such a desolate planet is genuinely interesting. Matt Damon is great in the role and he gives Watney a playful and cocky personality that perfectly fits with the film’s light tone. Shot by Dariusz Wolski, Watney’s moments on Mars look great and it leads to a climactic finish that is sure to have viewers on the edge of their seat.

But what I loved most about The Martian was its overwhelming optimism. While Watney is stranded on Mars, we get to watch the folks at NASA scramble to try and bring him home. Eventually, his crew is brought into the mix and the sacrifices that all of these men and women make for him is truly endearing. Entire countries even put aside their differences in order to work together and bring him home. There’s not an ounce of cynicism or hatred anywhere to be found, just the entire world uniting around the universal will to survive. The film’s final moments are also incredibly moving and the use of the song “Love Train” by The O’Jays over the end credits is a great choice. Ridley Scott has made some sci-fi films that exist solely for genre fans, but The Martian is a sci-fi film for everyone. It’s certainly not perfect, but as far as crowd pleasing sci-fi adventures go, it doesn’t get much better than this.

The Martian receives 4/4