Matt’s stuck on Mars, but that won’t stop him popping in to Royston this weekend

Matt Damon is up against the odds in The Martian

Matt Damon is up against the odds in The Martian - Credit: Courtesy Twentieth Century Fox

It’s fair to say that intelligent sci-fi isn’t the default setting when the money men from Hollywood give the green light to a space epic.

Stacks of green screen special effects, alien adversaries with outlandish make-up, shoot outs in outer space and plentiful merchandise opportunities for character figures and other tie-ins – that’s the sort of thing that floats their boat.

So when a film comes along that is all about the characters and the story, rather than the comic book trickery, it either gets a royal reception or sinks without trace.

Of course, anyone setting out to make intelligent sci-fi has another pitfall to avoid – there’s always the chance that you will finish up with a pretentious pile of pants that sets out to answer eternal questions but ends up being a wordy wodge of stilted dialogue and cinematic confusion.

That’s far from the case in The Martian, Ridley Scott’s latest outer space epic – the worst thing you can say about it is that it runs for a good bit over two hours when it’s essentially a very simple story.

On a manned mission to Mars everything goes wrong and Matt Damon gets left behind.

Now stranded and alone, with supplies sufficient for just 30 days, he manages to get a message back home and a rescue mission swings into action. It’s going to take ages to reach him, though, and somehow he has to figure out how to survive.

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Luckily he’s a brainy sort, and back on earth a whole team – Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, even Sean Bean have parts to play in what you might think is essentially a solo piece – are rooting for him.

The Martin is showing on Friday and Saturday at Royston Picture Palace – visit to reserve tickets.