Friday, 2 October 2015

The Martian

The Martian, 2015
Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Kristen Wiig, Sebastian Stan, Donald Glover and Mackenzie Davis

NASA has done several successful missions of sending humans to Mars. Ares III is the third mission to land and live for a small period of time there. However, 18 sols into the Ares III mission, a storm brews on Mars, a storm too strong for them to safely stay on the planet. They choose to abort mission. However, while walking through the storm back to their ship, one of their crew members, Mark Watney, is struck by debris and is presumed dead by his crew, and, after searching as long as they can do safely, they continue their abort without him. However, Mark survives but finds himself alone on the planet, while his crew, and the rest of NASA and the world think he's dead. It's 4 years until the next Mars mission and Mark is determined to survive until then and make contact with Earth to show that he's still alive.

The unique thing about the Martian is that it doesn't shy away from the technical and scientific side of being in space. The first thing we see Mark do after waking up alone on Mars is go back to the HAB and perform surgery on himself. He had an antenna impaled in his side and bits of it were still left after he pulled it out. It's grueling to watch but we get shown every step. And that's the first of what's to come. Over the course of the film we watch Mark try to grow food, create water, and do repairs and modifications on various things (his rover, the HAB, etc). The Martian is much more nerdy than your typical sci-fi, and it extremely benefits from it. It gives a sense of realism, and indeed, I've been told this is one of the most realistic sci-fi films. Even my husband, who always gets nitpicky about the science of things in movies, didn't have a lot to nitpick after the movie was over.

The film also benefits from it's humor. One of the things that struck me and made me love the book was just how funny it is. Mark is a hilarious and optimistic guy, and much of that is left in the film. In fact, this is one of the most faithful adaptions of a book I've ever seen. Some of the script is lifted straight from the book. Again, the film benefits so much from this. The book was just a fantastic read, and I'm glad that Drew Goddard (the screenwriter) realized this. Jokes about Commander Lewis's obsession with 70s TV and disco music, about "I can't wait to not die" and NASA telling Mark to watch his language. Also, the pacing in this film was extremely spot-on. The film never felt like it was dragging, but still gave the film time to breathe. Nothing felt rushed and nothing felt dragged out. The movie moved along at a perfect pace and nothing felt out of place story-wise. The screenplay and the pacing of the movie were definitely some of the highlights of this movie for me, and what made it as good as it was.

And how can I review this movie without talking about Matt Damon? Matt Damon does some great work here. He's able to convey all the humor and snarkiness of his character, but we still see how alone he is, and that he may perhaps be hiding how broken he feels. Matt's performance isn't anything like Sandra Bullock's in Gravity- we aren't given this huge emotional obvious-amazing performance, but he was pitch perfect casting for the role. Matt Damon is always great at playing the every man, and here he really shines. This is definitely some of the best work I've seen him do in a while. As well, the rest of the cast was really great, too. The cast was awesomely diverse. We had Latinos, Asians, Blacks, men, women, all working together for a common cause. Everyone was equally helpful and the women were able to avoid a lot of stereotypes and be actual characters. Everyone loved Mark and were willing to do everything to get him home. Jeff Daniels was still very much in The Newsroom-mode (which isn't a bad thing!). It's also great seeing more of Chiwetel Ejiofor, too. Jessica Chastain is always great, and the rest of the Ares crew had small parts, but were all in top form. As well, it's fun to see more of Donald Glover, who was essentially playing Abed from Community.

For me, The Martian is an extremely solid film. If I were going to make a movie out of this book, it would look almost exactly like what Ridley Scott made here. While the film probably could've been a bit more introspective than it was (the book isn't particularly introspective either, to be fair), but The Martian definitely still holds as one of the best space movies to come out in a while. It manages to avoid a lot of scifi tropes which, again, makes the film that much better. Pretty much everyone trying to rescue Mark is extremely smart and competent. There was no "villain" trying to stop Mark getting saved, and even Mars itself wasn't so horrible that it kept screwing Mark over. All the problems that happen along the way are all realistic and are solved, mainly, via common sense and science. It's refreshing to see there isn't any "villain" except some bad luck. Ridley Scott really is on top form here after not having made a really truly successful film in several years.

While the Martian didn't absolutely blow me away, it did do everything right. It had a fantastic diverse cast, a great lead performance, amazing visuals, perfect pacing and some really great writing. it's a story of hope and teamwork, and shows how much we can get done when we work together. The Martian is a story of common sense, ingenuity, science and humor, and that's what makes it so great and unique.


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