The Martian is directed by Ridley Scott and stars Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Kristen Wig, Michael Pena and many more. Based on the novel by Andy Weir of the same name, the story follows Astronaut Mark Watney (Damon) who, while on a manned mission to Mars, is presumed dead and left behind after a viscious storm causes the crew to abort the mission. Watney must survive against the seemingly impossible Mars environment with a limited food supply and total reliance on systems that could break at any moment, using his willpower and skills as a Botanist to help. The story also follows everyone at NASA as they try to work out how to save Watney. The film is both a comedy and drama and it works very well on both levels. It is a touching story of the whole human race pulling together to save one man who is seemingly without hope. It is uplifting and funny while also showing extreme desperation and helplessness.
Matt Damon’s performance carries this film. He brings so much energy to the role and is so much fun to watch. The film contains a lot of video logs from Mark Watney explaining what’s going on, and Damon manages to make these expositional moments very enjoyable and holds the screen brilliantly on his own. He brings the comedy and optomism which makes this film feel unique, as you’d think a film about a man stranded in total isolation would only be depressing. Damon does bring a great range though, when the moment calls for him to be serious he is and he does that just as well as the comedy. His optimism makes him such a loveable character, so the times when he is close to giving up hit really hard as you feel connected with him. Damon’s portrayal of Mark Watney is fantastic and in my opinion the best part of the film. The other performances are also very good. Ejiofor’s performance is especially strong, and there is a great chemistry amongst the cast.
Scott’s direction is very powerful. He creates the feeling of isolation brilliantly, using wide shots to show the vast emptiness of Mars which makes Watney feel small and insignificant. There is beautiful cinematography which is stunning to look at and makes you feel like you are on Mars with Watney. The tone switches on a dime; it can go from fun and uplifting to tense and desperate really quickly, which makes for a really engaging ride. Scott manages to have both a feeling of tension and of hope throughout the film. The dialogue is well written, lifelike and energetic, and makes scientific talk interesting and entertaining so it doesn’t alienate the average viewer. The science of the film feels genuine, which brings a sincerity to the film and so makes you feel more invested. The scenes with NASA don’t slow the film down and are just as engaging as the scenes on Mars. They don’t slow the pace and blend in well with the scenes on Mars.
The film obviously cuts things from the book for the sake of time, and while it stays very true to the books plot it leaves out a lot of the explanations of how Watney manages to survive. This unfortunately makes a lot of the things he uses seem a little convenient. One example is that the film leaves out the fact that Watney is a trained engineer as well as a botanist, which would have explained how he is able to do a lot of the things he does. It isn’t an annoying flaw, and I wouldn’t want the film to be full of exposition, but just a little bit more explanation to some things would help this feel less convenient. If you have read the book then you will understand more, but you shouldn’t have to read the book to get the most of the film.
Finally, the end sequence feels kinda silly. The majority of the film feels very realistic, so the final sequence feels annoyingly out of place. It is entertaining, but doesn’t fit in with the overall realism of the story, and so could have been done differently.
However, The Martian is a very enjoyable film. It is both funny and emotional, and is a very uplifting film with a good message of global unity. While it is not perfect it is definitly worth watching and very entertaining. One of my favourite films of last year.
P.S. Both the film and the book are very good and they elevate each other, so it is a good idea to see and read both. The ending is the only thing that’s different of the two, the books ending is much more realistic.