It’s kind of an atrocity that “Life on Mars” wasn’t played once during the movie. “Starman” was though, so I suppose that’s something.
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Produced by: Simon Kinberg, Ridley Scott, Michael Schaefer, Aditya Sood, Mark Huffam
Screenplay by: Drew Goddard
Based on: The Martian by Andy Weir
Genres: Science fiction, drama
Starring: Matt Damon, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie
Plot: In the (Hopefully not-so) distant future, NASA has put people on Mars.
So, who are the lucky bastards who get to leave everybody and everything that they know and love on a whole different planet a hundred trillion miles away (Or whatever the hell the exact measurements are)? Well, specifically, they’re scientists tasked with learning as much as possible about Marvin’s home turf.
One of these expeditions, Ares III, is forced to abort their mission because of a storm, and unfortunately, one of the crew members, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is killed by debris during the evacuation….
… Or is he?…
… I mean, obviously, he survives, because otherwise, we wouldn’t have a premise for the movie. I mean, we could have one focusing on the guilt the other crew members feel about leaving him dead on- ah, fuck that, I’m getting off track.
Watney survives, and eventually makes contact with NASA, but since it takes a shit-tonne of time to get from Earth to Mars, Mark can’t count on help arriving anytime soon, and must find a way to survive on the Red Planet as the good folks at NASA work to bring him home.
Truth be told, I’ve never been a huge fan of Ridley Scott’s. Yeah, I know that Blade Runner, Alien and Thelma & Louise are all great, and Gladiator is one of my favourite movies, but if you look at his filmography as a whole. there’s a lot of crappy stuff in there. His last couple of movies especially haven’t been kind to his reputation.
In fact, Ridley Scott was the one aspect of The Martian that was making me consider going to see Sicario instead. The near-universal acclaim that The Martian is getting swayed me back into its’ corner, though.
Good thing it did too, because The Martian is absolutely one of my favourite movies of 2015 so far.
One can’t exactly make a movie where 50% of the action takes place in space, have it look like shit, and still come out of it with arms raised in a victory pose. Thankfully, like the the other major space movies of recent years (Gravity and Interstellar), this movie promises to show us outer space (Specifically Mars, obviously) and it delivers in spades. It maybe doesn’t reach the level of the other two movies in terms of pure CGI goodness, but the visual effects are still top-notch, and the beautiful cinematography and steady direction don’t hurt either. What it piles on top of the effects and cinematography though, is what really makes the movie for me. Specifically, the awesome, involving story from Drew Goddard (And I suppose Andy Reid’s novel, which I haven’t read, also deserves praise), of Cabin in the Woods fame. The dialogue and banter is surprisingly buoyant humorous, something one wouldn’t expect from subject matter like this.
Obviously, the movie makes a point to show the isolation and loneliness that Watney is feeling throughout, because holy shit, how could it not, but it also makes a point to have a sense of humour about itself, and not make the audience wallow in a sense of despair. Aside from the surprisingly good, solid, mood-lightening humour, the main character’s infectious optimism is such a welcome touch. It would have been so easy to have Watney sulk around in a haze of self-pity throughout the runtime, only having breakthroughs when it conveniences the plot. What he actually does is a million times more entertaining to watch, and what he does is attack every problem with such an unrelenting sense of positivity that makes you root for the guy to get home that much more. If life handed him lemons, he would not only make lemonade, he could probably somehow make Fireball.
Of course, also to be thanked for Watney’s incredible likability is Matt Damon’s performance, which is great. , because he’s Matt Fucking Damon, and he’s great. However, lost in the fact that Damon is the one with his face plastered on all the publicity is the fact that the cast assembled for The Martian is one to be reckoned with. Jessica Chastain doesn’t have as much to do as she did in Interstellar, but she’s still great at what she does, and she shows it here. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig and Sean Bean are all A+ as the dedicated, underfunded (AHEM) folks at NASA, and Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie and Michael Pena all have excellent chemistry with each other and Matt Damon as the crew members of ARES III. Somebody I was really surprised and happy to see appears in the middle of the movie, but I won’t say who it is to preserve the surprise.
The Martian is one of those movies where it really takes a lot of effort to find any flaws whatsoever, but if I had to nitpick, I would have to say that, as welcome as Watney’s optimism is, it can skew a bit on the unrealistic side at times. That said, the movie does make a point to frequently show his discouragement with the situation, so I guess that argument’s pretty much moot.
I dunno, would anybody have a problem with me labelling it as the closest possible thing to a perfect movie? Because that’s pretty much all there is to it.
Overall: Excellent visuals, terrific performances and a cheerful sense of humour and positivity make The Martian one of the best movies of the year.