The Martian (2015)
dir. Ridley Scott
written by: Drew Goddard
starring: Matt Damon, Jeff Daniels, Chitiwel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Benedict Wong, Mackenzie Davis, Donald Glover
3.25 out of 4 stars
I am constantly outpaced by reading and watching and writing. Where I do love all three, they conflict with each other and leave me far behind on blog posts. One of those posts that never got done was my thoughts on how The Martian by Andy Weir would translate to film. The answer: pretty damn well. This science fiction book, emphasis on the science, seemed to be well researched, full of detailed explanations of how a botanist astronaut is going to survive until the space carpool can swing back to retrieve him, or his corpse, Little Miss Sunshine-style. Told through a combination of log entries and action from NASA, the book was engaging, surprisingly funny, and full of interesting, nicely developed characters.
Ridley Scott has now presented The Martian in film, opening to blockbuster success. Maintaining much of the original plot and trimming most of the in depth decision making, the movie translates well to screen. Mark Watney, the first true Martian, is the main focus of the movie. Played by Matt Damon with sarcastic exuberance, Watney is engaging but not quite as smart. Lacking the long, often delirious and/or flustered explanations of how he’s surviving on a lifeless planet, the book lacks the scientific draw of the novel. Additionally, some of the portions left out of the movie and some of the choices at the end were not the most advisable, taking away from the source material’s epic journey through Mars.
Good news is the movie is great how they made it. Creatively, this film is far less innovative than Ridley Scott’s most fantastic fare, but Mars is magnificent. The action focuses primarily on the early part of his exchange program from Hell, and we miss his entire bumpy, claustrophobic journey to his escape route which would have required The Martian: Mockingbird Part 2: Damon Gonna Be Hating Disco. What they do with Mars was attractive, populating Mars with green screen research. The weather, the sand are simply lovely; the technology is the most lovely.
The HAB is handsomely constructed, withstanding what the apparently inhabitable planet throws at them…mostly. Space craft as well are pieces of rotating pleasure. The space suits have a sleek, attractive quality, both functional and enjoyable to look at for two hours, capable of playing Wilson to Matt Damon’s Tom Hanks. Likely building off Emmanuel Lubeski’s successes in Gravity, the space travel maintains extended, twisting shots bringing back fond memories of Emmanuel Lubeski.
Writer Drew Goddard doesn’t bring the originality of Cabin in the Woods, or the creative license of World War Z, or the realistic quality of the Daredevil Netflix series, but he finds the right words to make a solid adaptation. Both of these talented men were able to glide by on natural skill. Fortunately, this is a vast improvement on much of Ridley Scott’s recent filmography, tapping back into his blockbuster roots.
Star Matt Damon works perfectly as the snarky and life threatened Mark Watney. Nailing lines like, “I’ve gotta science the shit out of this,” Damon exudes star quality, carrying the majority of the movie on his rapidly atrophying shoulders. Being the poster boy of being left on Mars fits this man well, working with the green screen and adding some painfully realistic moments in his troubling venture on the red planet.
The ensemble cast melded well for this rather large ensemble. Kristen Wiig is a fierce eyed PR captain in a nightmare (or dream) position. Chitiwel Ejiofor masters his role as a NASA big wig, and Jeff Daniels takes a very Will McAvoy approach as the NASA director. The flight crew, headlined by the redheaded goddess Jessica Chastain in a genre role, is perfectly fine, but their positions are not given much to work with besides climactic action and some humorous bits. A brief but exceptional highlight from Donald Glover as a wild eyed, caffeine fueled astrophysicist with sleep deprived energy and perfect scene stealing physicality.
A delightful autumn popcorn movie, The Martian delights audiences that ignore (or are blissfully unaware of) some of the changes from the source. A dependable cast, crew and director managed to pull widely appreciated entertainment from decently research oriented origins to make in an unexpectedly timely Mars movie. Now, we just wait the decades until a manned mission to Mars is a reality to see if Scott’s vision matches the real thing.