Matt Damon plays an astronaut stranded on Mars in a new trailer for 'The Martian.' Could he really survive  there? (Photo: ScreenCap)

Matt Damon plays an astronaut stranded on Mars in a new trailer for ‘The Martian.’ Could he really survive there? (Photo: ScreenCap)

Matt Damon’s new film “The Martian” debuts this weekend. If critics are any judge, it should be a blockbuster. The film and director Ridley Scott are receiving near universal acclaim for an awe-inspiring adventure that’s both very large, and very personal.

The all-star cast includes Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Peña, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Donald Glover.

Not since James Cameron’s “Avatar” has a science fiction film been so hotly anticipated. Big news about Mars this week is also whetting appetites.

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NASA released clear and convincing photographic evidence that liquid water exists on Mars for at least part of the Martian year in certain areas of the planet.

That significantly boosts chances that some form of alien microbial life may exist there. It also suggests that human colonies could thrive there.

Now, enter “The Martian.”

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Damon plays Mark Watney, one of a crew of astronauts who have set up a base on the Red Planet. A violent sandstorm forces the crew to blast back into space. Watney is swept away by the storm and given up for dead.

But he survives and must find a way to not only contact NASA, but also to eek out an existence until help can arrive. The problem is he only has 30 days worth of supplies and a rescue party will take at least a year to get there. He must produce his own food by growing crops in the Martian dirt.

While that may seem to strain credibility, scientific studies have already been conducted that prove it’s possible for earth-bound plants to grow in Martian soil.

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Scott, who has helmed such sci-fi movies as “Alien,” “Blade Runner” and “Prometheus,” is a stickler for details, and critics have been wowed by the film’s realism and attention to details.

Critics have called the film “visually stunning, scientifically credible, and immensely likable, thanks in large part to Damon’s funny, touching performance,” according to rottentomatoes, a Web site that tracks movie reviews.

Indeed, the film has received a 94 rating on the site, which is almost unheard of. It amounts to near universal acclaim. The film has received an equally impressive 81 rating on metacritic, another review tracking site.

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“What’s so stirring about the film is that, before and after everything else, it truly is about being human,” wrote critic Joe Morganstern in The Wall Street Journal.

Adds NPR critic, Chris Klimek: “Even adjusting for flattery, it’s an easy film to love – one so suspenseful and funny and just richly, consistently good you might get mad at it falling a few astronomical units short of great.”

Damon is singled out for his acting, and his performance puts him in reach of an Oscar nomination.

Scott also draws praise. “Ridley Scott rediscovers his light touch in a space epic that’s fun to geek out at. Damon – a fine actor with the magnetism you only find in a true movie star – keeps you glued,” wrote Peter Travers in Rolling Stone.

“The Martian” was expected to rake in as much as $18 million on its Friday opening day topping the last sci-fi blockbuster “Gravity.” It’s opening gross two years ago was around $17 million, according to

“The Martian” is expected to gross $53 million in its opening weekend, which would make it the second-highest opening in October in film history. “Gravity” opened at $58 million, according to the movie site.

Gravity is showing in 3,831 theaters and two-thirds are in 3D. Check out the trailer below. Seen the movie? Let us know your thoughts and be sure to follow IM on Twitter for the latest movie news.