The Martian

A Lighthearted Interstellar Spin-Off

Posted in Movie Reviews on October 10, 2015
Prod 35

Ridley Scott

Running Time
140 min

During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.

It’s been a recent trend that every year we receive a space travel blockbuster to stun audiences and try to rake in some of that Oscar glory. From to 2013’s Gravity to last year’s Interstellar, 2015 presents us with The Martian: a story of extra-terrestrial resilience in a future not too far away from our own. Taking a lighter-hearted tone compared to last year’s Interstellar, The Martian executes its concept with top talent both in front and behind the camera in a little over 120 visually stunning minutes that will have you hooked till the end. While not necessarily a masterpiece or an Oscar winner, director Ridley Scott elaborately manages to step out of his late melodramatic flops such as The Counselor and Prometheus and use his creative traits to produce a genuinely interesting and to some extent inspirational blockbuster flick that will entertain anyone.

Based on a book by the same way, the film takes on an a mix of Cast Away and Apollo 13 in that it centers greatly on the psychological pressure and tension developed through extreme isolation and the desperation that comes out of it whilst also exploring the themes of space travel and Mars itself, a very contemporary issue today. What sets apart The Martian from the rest of the loan survival films is its light heartedness, the glass half-full mentality of the protagonist presents a lot of comic relief throughout the film surprising audiences, giving them their money’s worth for once. That is not to say that the film doesn’t take itself seriously, you can see overtime the protagonist breaking down under the skin in few but key scenes to the progression of the plot. Outside of these scenes and back on Earth, there is a great amount of NASA subliminal messaging and government bureaucracy that feels unnecessary almost. While Ridley Scott finds a way to have these scenes work in his plot, it feels more like an obligation made by NASA to include in the film rather than a choice because the small-storylines never really go anywhere and the last 5-minutes felt more like a recruitment video than an actual ending.

Despite all this, The Martian still makes for an entertaining blockbuster thanks to its A-star list execution. With Matt Damon taking the lead role accompanied by Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Kristen Wig, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Donald Glover, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, you really feel that The Martian is a big project determined for success. Though it’s mostly Damon on the screen, the supporting cast manages to shine in their small yet pivotal roles throughout the film. As for Damon himself, having proved his showmanship in the popular Bourne franchise, he pulls off remaining in the center spotlight without a bore throughout the film with a charisma and effective comedic sense that dispel any possibility to dislike him. If one was to make a single complaint about the film’s casting, is that it is overcrowded, making it seemingly impossible to establish a strong enough relationship with Damon to care for his character’s survival the way Ridley Scott wants you to.

Finally, a space film would not function without its visuals and score and The Martian never falls short in that department. In fact Mars looks stunning, so much so that during the screen time focusing on the bureaucracy back home you’re desperately waiting to go back to the Mars atmosphere. 3D in The Martian is used as a supplementation and not a gimmick of the Mars’ sensual visuals making the extra money come at a great pay-off. Furthermore Ridley Scott’s effective choice of camera angles and shots creates vigorous tension throughout certain parts in the film perfectly, particularly early on when Damon painfully removes a piece of steel out of his body. As for the film’s score, while it does not reach the euphoric heights of Hans Zimmer, it surely does a great job at complementing Mars’ beauty throughout through its soulful rhythm.

As a result, The Martian may not have been the ground-breaking innovation that audiences and die-hard Ridley Scott fans were looking for, but in era of cyclical and pretentious blockbuster flops, The Martian provides with a lighthearted alternative that makes for a perfect cinematic experience for all audiences. It may not have been the film audiences may have asked for but it’s definitely the one they needed.

In Summary

The Good
  • Mars Cinematography and 3D
  • Matt Damon's Performance
  • Lighthearted Story
The Bad
  • Overcrowded Cast
  • NASA Bureaucracy and Promotion