TL;DR – A movie with tension, humour and humanity, go watch it
Score – 5 out of 5 stars
The Martian is a film about adversity and challenge in an environment that will kill you, which would make a very interesting film, now take that environment and put it on another planet and then leave your protagonist alone as everything crumbles around them.
In the future we have reached Mars, the crew of The Aries III have set up at their research station in the Acidalia Planitia, a large plain in the northern lowlands of Mars. Unfortunately one of Mars’ infamous storms forces a sudden evacuation of the crew. As the crew escapes to their re-entry vehicle to evacuate the radio antenna is ripped off the Habitat and hits Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) breaching his suit and flinging him away from the rest of the crew. Given the zero visibility and the short survival time with a ruptured suit, mission leader Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) is forced to leave behind the body of Watney and evacuate before the launch vehicle is destroyed by the wind. Of course, it should come to no surprise that Mark Watney survives the impact but is now left alone on the surface of Mars alone, and everyone else thinks he’s dead.
I love this movie, not even people sitting in front of me talking, playing with their phones and taking photos all through the movie could kill my joy at watching this masterpiece. Though to be fair, I may be biased due to my affection for the fourth rock from the Sun, but well whatever. Though I must say I have not read the book (something I plan to rectify soon) so I can’t say if it is a faithful adaption, though I suspect it is. Nor can I comment as to if all the science adds up, for I am put a planetary armature, but I am sure someone like Neil deGrasse Tyson will let us know sooner or later, but it felt a lot more realist than the more recent sciencey movie Interstellar.
This film works on many levels. The production design is top notch, from the Aries III, to the habitat, to NASA Headquarters, to the planet of Mars, it all feels right. A lot of time and effort has gone into some of those sets and it shows. The music by Harry Gregson-Williams fits well with the overall themes, as well as with the copious amounts of disco music sets a perfect accompaniment with the action. The filmography is another standout, people feel like there are in zero-G, Mars shines in a stark beauty. Because most of the film is filmed like a documentary the filmmakers were able to get some really interesting angles and were able to frame some truly interesting shots. The script is fantastic, when the film needs to be funny, it’s funny, when it needs to be sad, it’s sad, when it needs to have moments of triumph, it has moments of triumph and when it needs to make a poop joke, you can be sure it brings the poop joke. There are also some clever ways the film got around the only one F-Bomb per film rule of the Motion Picture Association of America.
The standout in this movie is, of course, Matt Damon as Mark Watney. During this movie he shows his range, from humour to terror to joy to despair, you feel the highs and the lows though his acting. You are constantly rooting for Mark, but as the emotion feels real you can’t be sure if this story has a happy ending or not and that tension kept me on the edge of my seat, something a film has not done for a long time. While Matt Damon is the main star, this is not a one actor movie and all the cast brings their A-game. Jessica Chastain shines as the Aries III Commander Melissa Lewis, you can feel her pain at leaving a man behind. Jeff Daniels (Teddy Sanders), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Vincent Kapoor), Sean Bean (Mitch Henderson) & Kristen Wiig (Annie Montrose) really bounce off each other as the various heads of NASA and end up driving the Earth-based portion of the film.
If I had to nit-pick, there were one or two issues with the film, there may be some spoilers here so if you have not seen the film jump to the next paragraph. Why couldn’t Watney restart his farm from scratch again after the Habitat breach? that was not completely explained. Ok it’s not foreshadowing if you say in once scene ‘bad stuff happens in space’ and then something bad happens in space in the very next scene. It feels like when they hired Donald Glover to play Rich Purnell they asked him to do a version of his ‘Abed’ character from Community, and he didn’t have the heart to tell them he played ‘Troy’ on the show. Also, this film has a China subplot, which is interesting because at no point does the film refer to Russia, the one other country on Earth at the moment that currently has the ability to assist here (yes I know this is in the book as well).
In the end, I loved this film and I highly recommend it, and you know what if this can help get Mars a couple of extra million from the US Congress when then that’s just a bonus.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Directed by – Ridley Scott
Screenplay by – Drew Goddard
Based on – ‘The Martian’ by Andy Weir
Starring – Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Chiwetel Ejiofer, Donald Glover, Mackenzie Davis & Jeff Daniels
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Ireland: 12A; NZ: M; UK: 12A; USA: PG-13