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'The Martian' Review: Ridley Scott Puts the Science Back in Sci-Fi

A celebration of technological ingenuity.

Twentieth Century Fox Film

Ever since 1977, when a little movie called “Star Wars” caught the public’s attention, the space opera has been the go-to subgenre for mainstream movie sci-fi. There’s room for other takes, like Duncan Jones’ 2006 cult hit “Moon” or this year’s excellent “Ex Machina,” but those are usually tiny films that play at the edges. When it comes to big studios and big budgets, it’s all about action and sweeping melodrama (with a little futuristic dystopia thrown in from time to time) — with little to no time for philosophical ponderings or scientific details.

Now here we are, 38 years later, with a new “Star Wars” on the way, and it looks like that wheel is going to just keep on turning. But sneaking in right before that cultural explosion is another type of science fiction film, one that’s been slowly building its own unique brand of hype: Ridley Scott’s “The Martian.” Based on the best-selling book by Andy Weir, it’s a mainstream attempt to go in the exact opposite direction and tell a story about the power of science and technological ingenuity — one that tries to glamorize the creative thinking and determination of astronauts, astrophysicists and the mad geniuses at NASA and JPL.

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