The Martian features a star studded cast that stars Matt Damon and includes Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Peña, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Donald Glover.
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Written By: Drew Goddard
Runtime: 2 hr. 14 min.
The Martian is one man’s struggle to overcome the hostility of space and return home against all the odds. Set in the near future, the crew of the Aries III is hit by a freak storm shortly into their mars mission. Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is injured and mistakenly presumed dead causing the remaining crew to leave him behind. It is ultimately a story of the durability of the human spirit and a testimony to NASA’s engineering. That duct tape alone deserves an award. Having read the book beforehand and being very impressed by Andy Weir I went into Ridley Scott’s adaptation filled with cautious optimism.
Ridley Scott has been making films for decades now and he has always excelled at giving a sense of scale. This is immediately apparent in this film as he captures the beauty of Mars but also the size of it. In short the film is gorgeous. The wide shots all visually encapsulate the magnitude of Watney’s isolation in a way the book never could. The film does well to make extended periods of scientific experimentation and engineering interesting and engaging. For example, there’s a scene where he starts growing potatoes and it kept my attention throughout. It’s not easy to make growing potatoes interesting. A quick mention to the sound effects and soundtrack in this film. I really enjoyed the score as it was suitably epic, adding to Scott’s sense of scale, but married it with familiar classic or old school Sci-Fi sound effects. It really helped establish it in that classic mould of Sci-Fi and give it identity.
The book was told through mission logs and married science with Mark Watney’s sharp and witty account of the events. I thought at first this may be difficult to adapt to film due to much of the book being Mark explaining and joking what he is doing alongside his problem solving methods. I also feared that the heart and soul of the book, which is Watney’s humour, would be lost. The film is not told exclusively through mission logs for obvious narrative and stylistic reasons but a few of the logs are replaced with video versions as well as narration. Thankfully Scott manages to keep Watney’s sense of humour embedded within the film while allowing it to flow naturally, the humour Is what sets itself apart from so many broody and melodramatic films filling Hollywood.
Like the book the story is driven by Watney and the film gets this part very right. Matt Damon brings this well written articulate character and his smart wit perfectly to the big screen whilst adding a vulnerable side to humanise him. He provides us with a likable and interesting lead in which to drive the film. He handles many situations so logically and efficiently there was a danger of him becoming some sort of inhuman super scientist but this vulnerable aspect Damon adds brings him back to a relatable reality.
Beside Watney the story flouts between NASA back on earth as well as the Aries III crew and how they both react to Mark’s situation. The NASA sections of the film are handled well and the sense of panic and urgency married with one hell of a PR problem are clearly presented. It successfully showed the working relationship between the business and scientific side in NASA. It allowed Mark’s humour to show during his sections as NASA brought the gravity back to the situation. However, the Aries is rarely visited and feels neglected in comparison. This leads to no real fleshed out members of the crew just stereotypical scientist or military characters. These characters play a fairly pivotal role in the plot so I feel we should have got to know them more so we understand their personal motivations more. Attempts were made through visual montages but they didn’t really give much of an insight. On the whole though they do a job and certainly would be missed from the film, I just would rather they had been given that bit more time.
The film however is engaging throughout, the scientific and engineering elements ground this film in reality and immerses you further. Ridley Scott succeeds in taking a brilliant story and adding his classic visual style to make it a spectacle as well as a story of human preservice. This coupled with a fantastic performance from Matt Damon and further strong performances by the rest of the cast make for an incredibly entertaining film where the stakes are felt and the emotional moments hit the way they should. The Martian