Disclaimer: This post was originally written for No Perfect Movie, but since the site has gone down, I’ve decided to transfer all my work onto this blog.
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels
Release Date: 30th September, 2015 (UK) | 2nd October, 2015 (US)
Company: 20th Century Fox
“Hi, I’m Mark Watney and I’m still alive… obviously.”
The Martian follows astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon), who is presumed dead during a fierce storm while on a mission to Mars, and marooned there by his crew. Left alone in the face of overwhelming odds with limited supplies, Watney is forced to rely on his intellect, his resourcefulness and (above all else) his wit to survive in this hostile wasteland, while the scientists at NASA desperately try to find a way to contact and rescue him.
Ridley Scott returns to the world of sci-fi, directing a story written by Drew Goddard and adapted from Andy Weir‘s bestselling novel of the same name. And unlike most of Scott’s other recent ventures, on the whole, The Martian‘s plot is excellent. It’s Cast Away meets Apollo 13, but far lighter than either. The tone is more fitting with the first Iron Man movie, and the film hugely benefits from Goddard’s snappy and light-hearted script.
There are some contrivances, but Weir’s original commitment to creating a realistic tale of science and survival is still preserved. Scott & Goddard rarely push themselves to the next level, seeming content to play it safe with a crowd-pleasing summer blockbuster – but it’s tough to complain when their blockbuster so much goddam fun. There are a few pacing issues though, and consequently, the movie’s final act in particular feels a little rushed.
“In the face of overwhelming odds, I’m left with only one option: I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this.”
The rumors of Matt Damon’s Oscar-worthy lead turn have not been greatly exaggerated at all. He’s a tour de force, demonstrating his incredible ability to bounce between wisecracking genius to despairing soul at the flick of a switch. I only wish I’d got to see more of his witty repartee with the likes of Kate Mara & Michael Peña. They’re both quietly great in minor roles – it’s a shame the members of the Hermes get sidelined in this film.
Naturally, Jessica Chastain still manages to leave a huge mark, despite not being afforded nearly enough screen time. Strong-willed and formidable, she makes for an inspirational leader. Chiwetel Ejiofor is the pick of the bunch of the NASA scientists on Earth, but Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig, MacKenzie Davis and Jeff Daniels all do their bit – while Donald Glover is all kinds of hilarious in his brief but memorable bit part.
Direction & Tone
I quite liked Prometheus. I enjoyed American Gangster. I didn’t hate Robin Hood. I can still say with 100% conviction that The Martian is Ridley Scott’s best work in the last decade. The man who fumbled his way into the Exodus: Gods & Kings director’s chair is nowhere to be seen here – instead he’s been replaced by a visual maestro. Scott’s greatest achievement is the way he’s realised the red planet on the big screen. The effects are phenomenal, and the artistry involved in designing it’s desolate landscape is second to none.
- Remarkably, one of the few jokes that didn’t hit with my audience was the “science the shit out of this” line. That’s probably because it’s been plastered all over the marketing though.
- I’ve studied a lot of geology related crap at uni so far, so I guess this movie appealed to me in a different way than usual.
- I couldn’t tell you if the science was accurate though. I would’ve actually had to have attended some of my lectures to be able to do that.
- I don’t want to undersell the amount of tension and despair in this film. When things get bad, they get very bad for Watney. You could say he had a rocky ride*…
*this week’s terrible pun comes courtesy of my buddy Tom. Feel free to direct your abuse to him.
Captivating, witty and a whole lot of fun, The Martian isn’t just Ridley Scott’s best film in years, it’s also the most enjoyable blockbuster of 2015 so far.