starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristin Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor
screenplay by Drew Goddard, based on the novel by Andy Weir
directed by Ridley Scott
by Walter Chaw The riposte, and it's a fair one, is: What would make you happy? And the frustrating response is, "I don't know." The problem is this (and in a movie about solving problems, it's germane to raise one): that The Martian, Ridley Scott and Drew Goddard's faithful adaptation of Andy Weir's bestseller, is essentially a bwana story in which smart and resourceful black and Chinese people band together to save a white explorer who declares himself both "colonizer" and "pirate" at various points in the movie. It's a summary of a certain kind of film, too, the space opera that used to be all the rage in the 1950s--a decade actually interested in exploration rather than defunding NASA and rabid anti-intellectualism. The only thing missing is a space chimp and a space lady with rockets in her brassiere. I confess that I probably wouldn't have even been thinking much, or perhaps as quickly, about the racial politics of this film had Matt Damon, the bwana in question, not "whitesplained" to a black producer (a female black producer) what diversity means as regards his wish-fulfillment reality series "Project Greenlight". Or if it weren't directed by Ridley Scott, whose last film, Exodus: Gods and Kings, required volumes of whitesplaining itself as to why the principals of his Middle Eastern/African tale were white.