REVIEW: The Martian (2015)

20th Century Fox – Theatrical Release Poster – The Martian

The following is a review of The Martian, a Ridley Scott film.

In 2011, Andy Weir self-published his first ever novel, The Martian. The Martian was envisioned as a very realistic science fiction novel, and it eventually became quite a hit. Then, in 2013, 20th Century Fox optioned the film rights, with Drew Goddard announced as the scriptwriter, and, later, Ridley Scott was announced as the director. One now hoped that Goddard’s talent and Scott’s experience could make The Martian a solid film. Thankfully, it is much more than that – The Martian is one of the best films of 2015.

The Martian opens on Mars with the crew of the ‘Hermes’ hard at work. All is good on Mars – every crewmember has a smile on their face. Suddenly, Johanssen (played by Kate Mara) gives word that the storm, which is headed their way, is much more intense than expected. Mission commander Lewis (played by Jessica Chastain) orders the crew to get ready to leave the planet, but as they make their way toward their spacecraft the storm hits them hard. Botanist Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) is presumed lost – dead. Commander Lewis makes the call, and they take off without his body. But here is the thing: Watney is still alive, and the next NASA mission to Mars is four years away.

That is the basic premise of The Martian. And this is the point where the movie transforms into a mixture of Apollo 13, Cast Away, and MacGyver. Watney is a smart guy who almost instantly knows how to handle the situation, and Matt Damon is just perfect in this role. Damon has the right attitude for every scene, and you never feel like his character is out of his depth. This is, without a doubt, Damon’s best performance since The Departed and The Bourne Ultimatum in 2006 and 2007, respectively.

Similarly, this is a return to form for Ridley Scott who, according to some critics, has not had a good film since the mid-to-late 2000s. Scott has always handled space films with a lot of respect, and he definitely handled this film the right way.

I was worried that Scott and Goddard had chosen not to incorporate the amusing moments from the book – that, perhaps, they had tried to make the script less funny than the book was – but they managed to keep the genre-escaping nature of the book. The disco-jokes are still in there, and Watney is as amusing as he was in the book. Speaking of music – this isn’t anything like Interstellar. The score isn’t particularly memorable. Instead, various disco-songs will move you to tears of laughter or joy.

While Matt Damon is the star of the film – playing the titular ‘Martian’ – it would be wrong to say that it is his movie alone. Thankfully, the crew of ‘Hermes’ is not underutilized, neither are the people on Earth. You are kept in the loop at all times, and there are some solid performances from the supporting actors and actresses. Michael Peña and Jessica Chastain shine on the ‘Hermes’, while Jeff Daniels gives a stoic and award-worthy performance as Teddy Sanders, the director of NASA.

This really is a sublime film, and it continues the current series of great big-budget outer space-films. Still, there is one rather large problem that I have with this film. While it never stops being entertaining, it does ‘outstay its welcome’ somewhat. The film is just too long, and the movie suffers because of it.

Final Score: 8.9 out of 10The Martian is Ridley Scott’s best film since Alien.

I’m Jeffrey Rex

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