Director: Ridley Scott
Runtime: 144 minutes
Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, et al…
Plot (taken from IMDb): 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 meagre supplies he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive…
The Martian is a feel-good movie first, science-fiction second. Helmed by the impressive Matt Damon, this is a film about survival against the odds, rescue, the human spirit and poo. There is a lot of science involved in The Martian, but it never becomes confusing – a testament to the good writing. Alongside the science of the film is a good amount of comedy, which came as a pleasant surprise; as did the film.
The other rescue film Matt Damon stars in (Saving Private Ryan) is dark and violent, as most rescue movies are. The Martian is very light-hearted, despite the serious nature of the film’s plot. We open with Watney being left behind in a dangerous storm on the surface of Mars, and the first thing that hits us is that The Martian is a handsome film.
Mars looks dry, arid and boiling hot. It feels like we are placed on the surface of the red planet. The opening scenes are hectic, and it becomes clear that Watney must be left behind – it is far too dangerous to go back and get him during the storm. The set-up is excellent, hooking us into Watney’s story in the opening minutes.
Throughout the remainder of the film, we see Watney going through different stages of survival. He starts off worried, scared and irrational, as you would. We then learn that he is incredibly smart and just the right guy to be left stranded on Mars (coincidence, right?), knowing exactly what to do in order to survive. It turns out that he needs to farm, and he knows just how to do it.
This all sounds rather contrived, but the way in which it’s handled is very clever. We get to know exactly what kind of person Watney is, and it turns out, he’s rather likeable. So when things start to go wrong, throwing spanners in his works, it hurts us as viewers. Ridley Scott makes us root for Watney, despite the vast expense it would cost to rescue him; as we find out on Earth.
The Martian swaps between Watney on Mars, and NASA on Earth, creating a dialogue between the two. It’s brilliant seeing everyone in NASA’s reactions discovering that Watney is still alive, from utter shock to huge sighs of relief to a look of disdain. The costs needed to rescue Watney, including monetary and retaining the reliability of NASA are very large. Rescuing Watney is a suicide mission.
The tension is great, as you want Watney to survive, but you don’t want other people to necessarily risk their lives in order to save him. For every character you learn to appreciate their stance on the situation. The Martian becomes a film about ethics, just as much as it is about survival. Throughout it all though, it never gets too negative.
The Martian carries with it an uplifting air, which came as a big surprise considering the film’s plot and subject matter. The science is very clever too. Everything that occurs in the film seems like it could happen, from the farming to the end of the film. But The Martian’s biggest strength? It is relatable.
All too often, science-fiction is cold, distant and over-explained. The Martian is none of these things. This is a warm film, with characters you can understand, no matter their situation or argument, and despite being almost two-and-a-half hours long it never feels over-stuffed or over-explained. This is a Sci-Fi for the layman as well as the science buff. The grand-scale of contemporary sci-fi is in The Martian too – the film is a spectacle.
Warmer, more relatable and funnier than most other Sci-Fis, The Martian is easily recommendable. It’s a surprisingly feel-good movie that maintains the spectacle of the Sci-Fi whilst discussing science, survival and ethics. With a 12A rating too, The Martian is a great family film, no matter what genres people say they like or dislike.