In 2013 we were given Cuaron’s Gravity and in 2014 we were given Nolan’s Interstellar. This year, 2015 brings us Ridley Scott’s The Martian, which arguably is the most enjoyable yet!
When astronauts on the planet Mars get caught in a fierce storm, they flee in fear of their lives and leave behind crewmate Mark Watney (Matt Damon),who is presumed dead. With only a tiny amount of supplies, Watney must utilize his wits and his intelligence as a botanist and a scientist to “science the shit out of this” so to find a way to survive on the hostile planet. Meanwhile, back on Earth, members of NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring him home, while his crew mates have other ideas to rescue him.
With cinema continuing for a third year with the theme of space, The Martian has many parallels to it predecessors. Firstly, it had big name director Ridley Scott at the helm and, like Gravity and Interstellar, the film will probably go on to be nominated for some Academy Awards for it’s technical achievements but perhaps a Best Director or a Best Film too that Interstellar missed out on (which was criminal). Secondly, it has taken the strongest elements of both previous films and combined them. Gravity was successful partly because of it’s simple format and strong lead, as it was practically a one woman Sandra Bullock driven show. Interstellar was memorable for it’s indescribable visuals and aesthetic and it’s crazy scientific talk. The Martian combines both of these strengths: an engaging lead, with Matt Damon in many lonesome scenes setting a lighter tone, and beautiful awe-inspiring visuals to create a brilliant hybrid.
The third parallel is that The Martian starred Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain, who both were two starring cast members in Interstellar. And Matt Damon is once again stranded and needs to be saved. At least he was a less cowardly scheming git this time. Oh and this is the third feature film where the U.S. has to fork out to save Matt Damon from jeopardy. Just saying.
I may joke and quibble but actually I’m being unfair. Matt Damon was incredibly compelling as astronaut and botanist Mark Watney. For someone who has been left on Mars, he was actually incredibly relaxed about the whole thing, and he had fantastic comic timing. But Damon let’s you see right through this persona on occasion, and you catch a glimpse of Watney’s vulnerability. The fact that he talks to the camera the whole time, and becomes quite attached to this and the rover that transports him, like they are living creatures. Or when he constantly jokes to hide the fact that he’s probably truly terrified. But in typical Ridley Scott style, the hero is brave, throws their-selves in and is not afraid of death (similar to Russell Crowe’s Gladiator and Siguorney Weaver’s Alien).
I feel though, that with so many characters and a star studded cast, some were underused. Chastain is second on the cast list bill, as Commander Lewis, but we don’t see her much until the end, or her crew either (Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan and Askel Hennie). The back and forth with NASA too is similar to the script’s pacing of one-liners and charming characters. Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean and Jeff Daniels are excellent, but again, none particularly stood out in terms of character development: they are all incredibly clever but all a bit nice.
Other than this, The Martian is still really enjoyable, is not short on laughs, visuals or drama. It’s light-hearted and thrilling at the same time, and, again, made me realise further just how dangerous and scary space really is. What surprises me though is still, after all these perilous space movies, I still really really want to go!
The Martian is in cinemas now!