'The Martian' blasts off at Toronto Film Festival

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Posted: Sep 11, 2015 6:33 PM
'The Martian' blasts off at Toronto Film Festival

TORONTO (AP) — "The Martian" has landed.

The Ridley Scott, Matt Damon 3-D space adventure premiered Friday at the Toronto International Film Festival, where critics and audiences cheered Scott's latest venture into science fiction as a return to form for the director. "The Martian," adapted from the best-selling Andy Weir novel, stars Damon as an astronaut stranded on Mars by his crew.

The film, which 20th Century Fox will release Oct. 2, is easily the biggest blockbuster premiering at Toronto, and the festival provided the liftoff "The Martian" was looking for.

While Scott's previous forays into space ("Alien," ''Prometheus") have led to frightful alien life forms, "The Martian" is instead predicated on science; mathematical deductions and problem-solving (as well as the humor of screenwriter Drew Goddard) guide its popcorn-with-physics entertainment.

"When you get a great script, you don't want to bronze a gold medal," Damon told reporters Friday.

"The Martian" is instead a full-spirited ode to NASA, one that shares some of the same ardor for space exploration as Christopher Nolan's "science-fact" epic "Interstellar."

For most of the film, Damon's scenes are entirely on his own, isolated on the red planet. He compared the experience to being "a kid in your bedroom pretending that you're in space."

While some reviews were less enthusiastic, Variety called it "an enthralling and rigorously realistic outer-space survival story."

Damon said "The Martian" is a joyful, thoughtful distraction for people in hard times.

"It's a reason to put this out there for us," said the actor. "It's a really optimistic and hopeful movie, and sometimes our job is to put something like that out during really tough times."

Scott also addressed criticisms of his last movie, 2014's Moses epic "Exodus," which featured a largely white cast of leads for the ancient Egypt tale.

"I've got no regrets on anything with 'Exodus,'" Scott said. "I'm very proud of it, but when they start saying, 'Well, gee, shouldn't Moses have been black and shouldn't the wife be Ethiopian,' well, I don't know. I wasn't there. And also, I would never have got it (made); it would have been limited."

The cast of "The Martian" — which includes Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kristen Wiig and Donald Glover — is more diverse.

And Pena, who plays an astronaut, was ready to celebrate that: "First Mexican in space!" he exclaimed.

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Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP