Review: The Martian

Allow me to initially say that up until the yesterday, I grossly underestimated Ridley Scott’s new grand sci-fi, action-adventure drama. I underestimated The Martian, and paid a price I would proudly pay again and again and again because The Martian is the kind of edge-of-your seat thrill ride that would tempt spectators to see again and again and again.

Based on Andy Weir’s bestselling novel, The Martian stars Matt Damon in a role where his character needs to be rescued-gee that doesn’t sound familiar.

Image by 20th Century Fox

Damon is Mark Wattney, a botanist on a scientific research team under the employ of a company you may or may not have heard of: the National Aeronautic Space Administration. Wattney and his crew had a job to do on the fourth rock from the sun, until a vicious storm forced them to abort their mission and in an attempt to return to their shuttle, Wattney was hit by debris and presumed dead by his crew who had to get the hell out of dodge before the storm ended up killing them too. Here’s the kicker: Wattney survived.

Wattney has become the sole inhabitant on Mars and using nothing but grit, scientific ingenuity and all the means and resources at his disposal, he must survive on a planet where everything is practically lifeless and against all odds, contact Houston, a.k.a. the Johnson Space Center, and let his crew, NASA and the entire world know that he’s stranded and needs a ride home ASAP.

The Martian is the film that establishes to draw from and find common ground with three other Oscar winning cinematic ventures about survival, science and adversity. I was mesmerized by Life of Pi and it’s perplexing yet visually stunning tale of survival, Gravity rooted me to the spot with its amazing attention to detail in terms of its technical construction and Interstellar was a mind-blowing sci-fi space opera that dared to push conventions and somehow The Martian managed to pool inspiration from all three features and stand out to be one of the most entertaining and boldest films released this year.

Image by Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons

Lately Ridley Scott has been hit-or-miss with the films he has made, but The Martian is a huge home-run and did a job well done bringing the right mix of drama, realism and spectacle. I was drawn in from the jump, I was at the edge of my seat as the film progressed, I was genuinely emotionally invested in this movie and I got everything I could hope for. I was very impressed.

Drew Goddard’s adaptation of Weir’s novel was brilliant and it’s easy to tell that NASA and the practical science that NASA implements was a major influence written into the film. It’s scientifically grounded but The Martian has heart as well and it’s simpler to digest and savor because it appeals to the brain and heart of audiences; that is a rare skill.

This film probably featured 2015’s best acting ensemble to date. It should go without mention that Matt Damon shined in this movie, this was perhaps as good as I’ve seen him in a film for a long time, but the rest of the cast was solid all around. Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara, Donald Glover, Michael Peña, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Askel Hennie, Mackenzie Davis, Kristen Wiig; what is so great about all of them is that the entire cast really bought into the plot. Meaning as the characters all learned about Wattney’s predicament, the synergy between them could be felt as they all rallied to an important cause, no one was higher or lower than anyone else and I found that to be a significant sell for The Martian.

Technically, I thought this was superior to Mad Max: Fury Road in every way-to all Fury Road groupies who read this, “yeah I said it!”

Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography was sublime, Pietro Scalia’s editing was top-notch and virtually seamless, Arthur Max’s production design was outstanding, the visual effects were incredible, the sound and sound effects were top-of-the-line, the costumes by Janty Yates were great, I thought the music by Harry Gregson-Williams was a little over-the-top but I enjoyed it. I thought the disco music was bold but it paid off.

Image by Georges Biard, via Wikimedia Commons

I can’t recall where but I saw a Tweet the other day about how Hollywood has invested a lot of money and resources into saving Matt Damon’s character in films, but those investments pay off because somehow filmmakers make an adventure into saving the damsel in distress that is Matt Damon’s character. It worked with Saving Private Ryan, it worked (to a certain extent) in Interstellar, and it works again with The Martian.

I am practically gushing over The Martian, a vintage out-of-this-world thrill ride that must be seen in theaters.


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