The Martian marks the return of Ridley Scott and is based on the book of the same name. While on an excavation trip to Mars an unexpected mega storm hits and threatens to tip over the ship, while the team is evacuating botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) gets clattered by a debris and is assumed dead. It isn’t until his crew has left on this assumption that we find he has survived… just… and must use his wits, science and sheer will to survive.
Off the bat this is a return to form for Ridley Scott. It looks fantastic. They have used the source material well script wise and do a good job getting across the science to the lay person.
One issue I had with the book is that Mark Watney was just plain annoying and Matt Damon tones him down the perfect amount. Now he is not the first cocky self-assured intelligent protagonist we’ve had recently (Tony Stark/Sherlock), and while he could have been unbearable the film splits the screen time well between him and the rescue mission back on earth. Damon does a really good job and nails the comic timing of the character with his physical comedy as well as the situational comedy.
Almost all of the rest of the cast put in a good shift too. A stellar (pun completely intended) group of actors including Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara, Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Chiwetel Ejitofor, Kristen Wiig and Halt & Catch Fire’s Mackenzie Davis that go to prove, the more good actors you have… with a good script obviously… the better your film will be. Sean Bean and Donald Glover’s characters were less convincing and a little contrary but it doesn’t by any means affect the film as a whole.
Visually the film is just lovely. Mass Effect 1 fans may have flash backs to driving around in the Mako on different planets. It’s exactly that sort of stunningly colourful rocky terrain. Space is made out to not only be beautiful but manageable and extremely explorable. It’s a film for the dreamers and endless possibilities that space travel could afford.
Biggest criticism of the film has to be that it is almost too positive. What makes survival films work is the tension, fear and despair that the main character won’t make it. Here there was none of that. You never thought for a moment that the characters would fail to find a way to get him off the planet and this inevitably ended up sucking the suspense out of a lot of the action. Action that is executed well.
As I have read the book I will say that there are elements that got left out that was a good thing, but there were some things that definitely could have been added to make the film better. There’s a lot more action so naturally it couldn’t all be fit in, but what gives you an insight into how Watney is coping is how he has to deal with the monotonous day-to-day life and time-consuming acts of maintenance to just make it throughout the month. It’s this sort of depth that would have greatly benefitted the character instead of just cutting to 5 months later.
Something of a rarity with films nowadays in film is to see something that actually promotes humanity working together for a common goal, and it was nice to see The Martian didn’t shy away from this. Instead of governmental self-interest what we see is NASA making secret deals with the Chinese space agency out of the political spotlight and the media actually getting behind the rescue mission for this one astronaut.
A return to form for Ridley Scott as well as Matt Damon. It’s a stylish, clever, funny at times survival blockbuster from outer space. It’s well done without being spectacular and the only thing stopping this being a truly great film is the lack of despair and thus missing suspense. Great acting all round that compliments the message that science and intelligence is what can solve disasters, not the cliché’ single act of heroism for a change. Definitely one of the better adaptations.