Hi everyone, Bryan Here…
It’s no doubt in my mind that director Ridley Scott was the perfect person to direct ‘The Martian‘, which was based off of Andy Weir’s 2011 novel of the same name. His brilliant story telling and eye to make a desolate planet like Mars look beautiful is simply majestic. Scott is mostly known for directing ‘Alien‘ and ‘Blade Runner‘, which kind of makes him one of the Godfather’s of science-fiction, but he has a few other gems on his resume too, all in different genres. With a movie like ‘The Martian‘ that is in the sci-fi realm, I was pleasantly surprised and overjoyed to find the film quite funny with a very feel-good quality to it, which is something that is not really present in Scott’s sci-fi movies.
So I’m glad to see that the humor from the book transferred to film very well. ‘The Martian‘ centers on a group of scientists and astronauts who have been doing research on Mars for a number of months including a cast of Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Askel Hennie, and Matt Damon. A few minutes before a giant storm is set to hit the crew, they decide to pack up and leave Mars early, in fear that the storm could tear apart their ship and housing. As they are walking toward the ship, a satellite flies off one of the structures and hits Damon’s character Mark Watney, sending him flying a few hundred feet back.
Due to the darkness and debris that is flying around, the crew cannot find Watney easily and if they don’t get on their ship and take off, they could all be stranded there. It didn’t help that Watney’s vital signals went to zero. Thinking Watney is dead, the crew heads home, but to everyone’s shock and awe, Watney survived and is actually quite healthy. The problem is, he has no way to contact Earth or get home. Not only that, he only has a finite amount of food left, so being a Botanist, Watney tries to grow food, phone home, and get off Mars.
Luckily, the folks at NASA back home have a plan and so does Watney, but can he survive the number of days it will take to be rescued? Don’t get me wrong, ‘The Martian’ is as intense and suspenseful as it is funny, which writer Drew Goddard, perfectly mixes these two aspects into one excellent screenplay, and it’s here that we really connect with each character, no matter how small or big their roles are. We mostly communicate with Mark through a series of handheld security cams, as he talks to us on what he’s thinking and planning.
Instead of slowly going insane, we see him logically solve each problem in order to get home with a bit of wit and humor, which was a nice breath from the usual gloomy and dreadful scenarios we’ve seen play out in films like this before. The visuals are stunning in this dry landscape and was filmed in Jordan as well as on sound stages in Hungary, where almost everything looked to be real and done practically. It certainly pays off in the final version. Even though the film is roughly over 140 minutes long, it seems to only last an hour, and you don’t want to leave Watney’s side for a minute. That’s how likable he is and to Matt Damon’s credit, he just nails the role.
Jeff Daniels, Donald Glover, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Sean Bean also show up throughout the film, and in one case Sean Bean has to explain to a group of scientists a moment in the ‘Lord of the Rings‘ film, which is probably one of the better things I’ve seen in a while. I’m happy to say that the 77 year old Ridley Scott has not lost his way at all. ‘The Martian‘ might be one of his best films, one that well made and acted on every level.
– Bryan Kluger