Review: The Martian
What would a trip to Mars be without a little Disco? Ridley Scott is directing a new Science-Fiction film, The Martian, a hit novel from author Andy Weir. While Scott has a relatively brilliant Science-Fiction past, all of his more recent movies including Prometheus have been significantly lacking. The good news is that fans of The Martian have little to fear. Together with scriptwriter Drew Goddard, this adaptation hits the greatest parts of the novel, while simultaneously creating Ridley Scott’s finest film in a good while.
Matt Damon, in his most likable role since The Bourne Trilogy, is astronaut Mark Watney. Watney is part of a manned mission to Mars to gather information about the planet and bring it back to America and NASA. It all seems part of a routine mission, nothing really to be alarmed about. That is until a mission threatening storm jeopardizes the mission and race back to the spacecraft leads to catastrophe. Watney’s space suit is ripped and he is thrown from the rest of the crew. Captain Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) makes the decision to leave Watney behind thinking that death is inevitable. The only problem is that Watney survives. Now he is all alone on Mars and must survive on the uninhabited planet until he can find a way off of it.
From the start, it’s easy to see the similarities between The Martian and another seminal space exploration film, Apollo 13. Both films bring a lot of realism to their space crisis, switching between multiple different groups to progress the narrative. Apollo 13 followed mission control, the astronauts, and the families while The Martian focuses on Watney, NASA, and the crew who left him behind. At first it is hard to follow such a large cast, but the pieces fall together reasonably well. The biggest issue is that Matt Damon’s Watney is so compelling the film seems to lose something when the focus is off of him.
While the idea of someone surviving on Mars still seems a little farfetched given our knowledge of the planet, The Martian really emphases the use of science for survival. NASA is busy trying to devise ways to bring Mark Watney home, while Watney is just trying to find ways to survive daily life. A movie completely focused on science or Matt Damon talking to himself wouldn’t be able to hold attention for the runtime, so there’s some really clever usage of video logs throughout. Instead of seeming like he is talking to himself, Watney directs his experiments and life on mars as if he is talking to NASA directly and it makes for some extremely comedic sequences. Not to mention the entertainment he finds in his crews’ personal luggage. Let’s just say there’s going to be some Donna Summer’s on Mars.
What makes the time away from Watney a little more bearable is the A-List supporting talent. Jeff Daniels, plays the NASA chief concerned with the dollars and cents; Chiwetel Ejiofor, is the Mars mission director Vincent Kapoor, and Sean Bean is the flight director. Ejiofor gets the most screen time out of any of them and is perhaps the biggest assist the film has besides Damon. Of course the flight crew is also filled to the brim with talent notably the aforementioned Jessica Chastain.
One of the greatest strengths of Mark Watney is his never give up attitude. Perhaps that same attitude is why The Martian is the best Ridley Scott film in years. The Martian relies on real world logic to solve the most demanding of challenges and that makes Watney’s plight that much easier to relate towards. It is indubitably a crowd pleaser and audiences will wonder why can’t science always be this fun.