“The Martian”: Science, Fictionalized

The Martian is science-fiction in the most literal sense of the term. It’s essentially a big-budget ode to the scientific method, in which an enterprising astronaut marooned on Mars after a deadly sandstorm puts every ounce of his collegiate¬†powers towards surviving and eventually returning home. Directed by Ridley Scott and written by Drew Goddard, the movie version of the popular Andy Weir novel meets the old-fashioned morality and classical simplicity of that story with awe-inspiring visualizations of a planet we may still one day get to know.

Rather than dwelling on the wonders of space, The Martian skips straight past the sense of discovery and plunges in as the characters treat the most foreign environments as a mundane workplace. In the opening scene, the five astronauts of the Hermes mission are deep into a harvesting session when they get word of an oncoming storm. They make their way towards shelter, but not soon enough. Four of them return to safety in time, but one, botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon), disappears, presumably asphyxiated to death.

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“Interstellar”: Full of Stars

 Interstellar

At least since he became one of Hollywood’s Most Important Directors, Christopher Nolan has directed movies about ideas, not people. In Inception, he asked questions about the nature of dreams and the politics of intertwined narratives. In The Dark Knight, he challenged the nation’s attitudes about terrorism and urban corruption. In The Dark Knight Rises, he seized upon the prevailing notions of the inequality gap in the American rhetoric. And in Interstellar, he sets his sights outward, heading into the great beyond for the first time. He comes back with three hours of gorgeous imagery and solid performances tied together by a script that strives for emotional catharsis and falls far short.

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