I’m a long time fan of director Ridley Scott. Even though I haven’t seen Exodus yet. Still, whenever I hear that he’s up to a new project (which he constantly is) I’m excited. I just love how his movies are shot. There’s always something majestic in these pictures he manages to create for his films. And since “The Martian” is a scifi movie I had to see it. No way around it. The movie managed to get some good critics which made it even more interesting.
Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is “The Martian”. Stranded on Mars, when a huge storm hit him and his crewmates, while doing science work on the surface. On the way back to the ship he gets separated and injured. Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) is trying to find him, but ultimately forced to leave him behind, to save the rest of the crew. When Watney wakes up the storm is over, he is injured and alone. He immediately tries to analyse the situation. He finds a way to produce water and food first. Then the next problem is how to make contact with Earth. In the mean time NASA tries to handle the failed mission and declares Watney dead. When checking satellite photos from the evacuated Mars basecamp, they notice that elements of that base changed position. They immediately try to work out a plan, to start a rescue mission while Watney finds a way for communication. Then it’s a battle against time.
This is one of the safest movies I’ve ever seen. There is no villain in this movie. Everyone behaves like a thinking human being. The villain is the problem of bringing Mark Watney back home. How can it be done? Is it even possible? Another thing is the survival aspect Watney has to get managed. The movie walks a fine line of telling the story of Watney’s survival and the NASA trying to find a way of saving him. It goes back and forth but never loses its tight pacing. Which is phenomenal for a 140 minutes movie. It never dragged.
The movie does have some time jumps and one of them is quite a leap. I expected to see a little more of the psychological impact of being alone on an alien planet. On the other hand, adding more stuff to this film, would have probably ruined the pacing. From what I heard they managed to keep it pretty much in line with the book by Andy Weir. Drew Goddard’s screenplay works pretty tight and manages to avoid the usual scifi movie traps. While it does have a serious side to it, there are a lot of parts that are very light and even funny. Again a fine balance that worked out very well.
Acting wise it’s ‘almost’ a one-man show. Matt Damon does a nice job. There is not much to complain. A couple of situations could have needed a little more despair. I mean, sure… the character is a trained astronaut and well prepared. Still, it is a very hard situation he is in. A little more desparation wouldn’t have hurt. But that’s a minor nitpick. Jessica Chastain is also very good. Her character, of course, has doubts about leaving Watney behind. And she is fighting with her decision. Jeff Daniels, playing the head of NASA, is also a nice character. He is also fighting with hard decisions. Chewitel Ejiofor plays the head of the Mars mission and fights with hard decisions as well while in the process of preparing a rescue mission. The cast in general is stellar and does a fine job overall. Every character is believable and has its place in the film and story. No one is wasted.
There are voices out there labeling the movie a NASA commercial. But it’s not just about NASA in this movie. It’s about science, space, its dangers and why we have to get out there. And most importantly… that we can make it. The movie makes a scientifically very sound impression and I’m willing to think that nothing in this movie is impossible. Well, ok… here and there are some weird things. But overall, I think it works. so I would rather call it a Space commercial and not a NASA commercial. I would love for mankind to focus more on exploring space instead of all the stupid stuff that’s going on on this planet right now. Maybe things would be dealt with differently once mankind managed to make the next step to interplanetary travel.
Mars never felt closer. Strange and yet familiar. Dangerous and yet inviting. The vfx are flawless. It seems like directors start to learn how to use vfx properly. It’s about time! The 3d felt good but there are some scenes I would have enjoyed more in 2d. At least the 3d looked good and didn’t take me out of the movie.
Go see it. It’s an exciting ride!