Who would have thought a film about an astronaut (Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon) stranded on Mars would be one of the most uplifting movies of the year?

In a year (more like a decade) of predominantly dark, dour blockbusters, The Martian is unique in how joyful and good-humoured it is.

Damon carries much of the film with his affable larrikin charisma alone. Watney makes frequent wisecracks about his desolate situation, but these are organic to the story as another way for him to stay alive and sane.

Watney must constantly deal with the sheer isolation and hazards of living on Mars, which maintains heavy suspense. But this naturally tense atmosphere has the added benefit of making every accomplishment – from Watney growing potatoes in Martian soil to rigging communication with Earth through the old Pathfinder rover – feel like a fist-pumping triumph.

The Martian isn’t just about perseverance and surviving against the odds; it’s an intimately personal yet solar system-spanning epic about human ingenuity, exploring a new frontier and Earth pooling its resources together to help someone in need.

The Martian is exciting, funny and wonderfully inspiring.

Let’s hope this film inspires us to actually, finally send manned missions to other worlds again.