Three films about…space: The Martian (2015), Apollo 11 (2019) and Ad Astra (2019)

Barnaby Page
12 min readJun 3

Why am I writing about these movies now?

Well, I’m moving my back catalogue of movie (and occasionally TV) reviews from another site to Medium — covering many of the best-known releases of the last decade, as well as more obscure fare. To make it a bit more fun, I’ll be grouping them thematically (as here), but unless I spot actual errors I’m not doing any editing…so my opinion may have changed since I first wrote them!

My reviews of new cinema, streaming and disc releases, as well as retrospectives on old (and not-so-old) classics, will mostly continue to appear on the Medium publication Frame Rated.

Anyway, here goes. Enjoy…

The Martian

The Martian, an uncharacteristically jolly movie from Ridley Scott, has been compared to Saving Private Ryan. But this seems to be largely because Matt Damon is in both, and gets saved in both; and the fact that the latter statement is no spoiler at all for The Martian is the asteroid-sized weakness in a nevertheless agreeable and adroitly-put-together film.

In fact, it has much more in common with the Tom Hanks vehicle Castaway (and to a much lesser extent with the bleaker Robert Redford All Is Lost) than it does with Private Ryan. As in both these, the setup and the challenge for the lead character are potently simple: here, as you know, Damon is a botanist-astronaut inadvertently abandoned on Mars by his colleagues when their mission is hastily aborted.

Like Hanks on the desert island or Redford on his yacht, Damon must attempt to survive both an unfriendly environment and his own doubts, using the few supplies that fate has left him. But a key difference, of course, is that these few supplies are — in the accidental Martian’s case — designed at vast expense by the best brains on the (home) planet specifically to aid survival in this environment. Otherwise it would be a very short film indeed.

So the movie has to fall back on less fundamental questions, not “will he find anything to eat?” but “will he have enough to eat in the pre-stocked supply cupboards to last him until a rescue mission arrives, at the minimum calorific consumption per day to sustain life, given the…

Barnaby Page

Barnaby is a journalist based in Suffolk, UK. By day he covers science and public policy; by night, film and classical music. He has also been a cinema manager.