October 2, 2015 by bck1402
This might be the most successful movie to feature Mars in a really long time.
I became aware of Andy Wier’s book, The Martian, only when it popped up in the bookstores over here. I was curious enough to check out some reviews online and learn the basic plot; an astronaut is stranded on Mars and has to survive until a rescue can be made. There was also a decision not to read the book because of what I was writing in my own book at the time, although mine wasn’t so much survival and rescue, and it wasn’t just one individual on Mars. It’s not that I was worried about similarities. If our research aligned, we would have similar ideas about how some things would take place and I was trying to avoid influence.
So, at this point, all three books have been written (as of a couple of years now) and two are out (see below) with the third undergoing an edit to trim the fat. And I wasn’t going to miss out on the movie. In watching, my mind was racing along to see how each of the problems would crop up and what solutions I could figure out before it happened on screen, especially where our hero, Mark Watney (Matt Damon), was concerned. I know it annoys any friends who accompany me how often I would predict dialogue and mutter along with the characters in given situations, or figure out plot points before they happen.
Please say I’m not alone in that.
Still, The Martian as a movie is a corker of a ride with impeccable pacing and editing, superb direction and some awesome cinematography (Dariusz Wolski!) to realise the Martian landscapes. As we do in fiction, the science is over-embellished a little to create tension and drama. Yes, communication between planets is not instantaneous, but you can’t have the characters sitting and waiting for replies or responses with every tap of the return key, not in a movie. And numerous science sites are pointing out various inconsistencies where the Martian weather is concerned or some of the other science employed in the movie. Still, that’s where the editing and pacing works on the 140 minute movie. You hardly feel the movie drag despite some slow, reflective moments. The action would be similar to the likes of Apollo 13; lots of talking heads discussing serious matters. This is balanced mostly by the humour that comes out, mostly from Watney as he tires to keep his own spirits up via his video log on Mars. My laugh out loud moment was a meta thing when a secret meeting was given the codename, Elrond, and it the explanation came from the actor playing Mitch Henderson. Such a geeky scene.
That also plays to the credit of the impressive cast director Ridley Scott has wrangled. From Damon anchoring the movie to everyone else working to rescue him. Scott’s direction manages to play to both the epic scope of the adventure as well as the Martian landscape while keeping the drama fairly intimate and focussed on Watney, NASA’s efforts (cast there includes Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Benedict Wong) and then on his crew-mates (including Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Sebastian Stan) who thought they left him dead on the planet. All that beautifully underscored with music by Harry Gregson-Williams.
Aside from the time dilation/compaction to serve the story, the movie holds the drama and the tension well enough to drive the story from a cinematic perspective. While the movie is very actor-driven, the visuals are astounding and the production is top notch coming from a director with a very sure hand at handling the material. There’s a brilliant use of a David Bowie song (go on, take a guess which one), although not too sure about the ABBA song. Still, doesn’t diminish the overall enjoyment of the spectacle.
Stars Matt Damon, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Benedict Wong, Mackenzie Davis, Donald Glover with Sean Bean and Jeff Daniels
Directed by Ridley Scott