The Martian, based on Andy Weir’s best-selling novel, doesn’t waste any time in getting itself started. There isn’t a lot of time spent on the Mars mission itself and the film is entirely focused on the rescue mission and survival in the face of great adversity. All you know is that a team of NASA astronauts (Michael Peña, Kata Mara, Aksel Hennie and Sebastian Stan), headed by Commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) are taking samples and doing research on the red planet. When an unexpectedly strong storm hits, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is thrown by flying debris and thought dead. Left behind, Watney wakes up alone and stranded. With no one there and no help for 140 million miles, Watney pools together his meager resources, his scientific mind, and his botany skills to become the first man on Mars who is able to grow food.
When NASA employee Mindy Park (Mackenzie Davis) notices that Watney is very much alive after the space organization has already publicly declared him a casualty, the team of scientists, engineers, and media representatives (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean, Benedict Wong and Donald Glover), as well as NASA director himself (Jeff Daniels), must gather all their resources and brain power to find a way to safely bring him home.
Ridley Scott’s venture into outer space will surely have some comparing it to last year’s Christopher Nolan epic, Interstellar, or to Alfonso Caurón’s Gravity two years prior. But other than the fact that all three films take place in space and can get a bit scienc-y (three years in a row!), The Martian isn’t very similar to either of these films. It’s a film about survival with plenty of optimism to go around that will have even the most skeptical of viewers charmed by its endeavor to bring Matt Damon’s character home. It aims at being far more family-friendly than its predecessors and this approach works.
The film’s plot is exceedingly basic without dumbing itself down too much. And with one end goal, it’s bolstered by top notch performances, scientific jargon broken down so that everyone can understand, and a likable character you can root for. You won’t find here excessive angst or over-the-top drama. And even in the most dire of situations, the film maintains a lighter tone given the lead character’s circumstances. The film aspires to be hopeful and more so than that, passionate about space even when it looks to swallow Damon whole and leave him in desolation.
Ridley Scott keeps the direction of the film on track, especially given the large number of characters, and creates a team spirit among the ensemble cast. The cinematography is beautiful, the metallic colors of NASA juxtaposed nicely with the red hues of Mars. The cast works well together, and while Damon is alone for three-quarters of the film, you’re never bored with him as he’s constantly talking to a camera to update you on what’s going on with him. The Martian is a film that is driven and well-rounded family entertainment that is sure to please everyone and maybe make them want to go pick up a science book.
Release Date: October 2, 2015 | Director: Ridley Scott | Screenwriter: Drew Goddard | Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Kata Mara, Sebastian Stan, Michael Peña, Sean Bean, Donald Glover, Aksel Hennie, Mackenzie Davis, Benedict Wong | Genre: Adventure, Sci-Fi | MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some strong language, injury images, and brief nudity