Rated PG-13, 122 min.
Starring Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain. Directed by Ridley Scott
The Martian is one of those films that will be a different experience based on what kind of person you are. Do you find science interesting? Are you the sort of person that has to understand everything that’s going on?
The plot revolves around Mark Watney, an astronaut left for dead after an accident with his crew ship as they are trying to leave Mars. He awakes with a small amount of supplies and a harsh wasteland that makes his existence a struggle every step of the way. Movies like this are tough to pull off; they delve deep into science, have a lot of politics and have many slow sequences that follow one character.
The Martian moves at a great pace, and looks beautiful to boot. Everything looks very real, and the sets are well done. Mars comes to life, and you get a feel for the struggle of day to day life as Watney tries to stay alive.
The problem with these sorts of films is that they get very repetitive. The movie switches back and forth between Watney and those that are still on Earth and this works to a certain extent. At first it’s rather refreshing, because it’s been a little bit since i’ve seen a good space thriller, but over time I thought this film could’ve cut out quite a lot, as there’s a decent amount of filler in this film, and the run time could’ve easily been cut down to 2 hours.
Essentially this film boils down to Watney encountering a problem, getting through that problem, then having to get through another issue as that one pops up. This is complimented by the politics that go on at NASA back down on Earth and it’s all very convincing. You feel for Watney, and you just want NASA to get their shit together so they can get him. You really just want Watney to get home!
The biggest problems I had with The Martian was the predictability and character development. The problems that Watney encounters are truly horrible, but at the same time The Martian constantly reminds you that you are watching a movie by upping the ante of each problem to keep you engaged. This gets tiring by the end of the film and in that respect it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. You know where the film is going about mid-way and what it’s trying to do. We also don’t get to know too much about Watney. He’s a guy with no significant attachments (that we know of) besides his parents back home and he hates disco. I would’ve really liked to have less time spent on NASA politics and more spent on Watney’s backstory so we could understand him a bit more and see how he got to where he did.
Speaking of science, wow there is a lot of that in this film. At first it’s very intriguing, and as someone who struggles with science I thought it was pretty cool. But as time goes on, I understood less and less of what was actually going on but I knew that Watney is a smart dude and that he knows what he’s doing. The main problem with this is that the film became a one-sided affair and creates a shallow energy. Watney knew what was going on, but I didn’t. This is a daring film for smart people in that respect, because the more you understand about this stuff the more you’ll get out of it. The Martian explains just enough so that the viewer can have a general idea of what’s going on, but it does get a bit crazy towards the end of the film as he gets himself in some pretty ludicrous situations that reminded me that this was based on a completely fictional book.
The humor helps balance out all the science that is thrown at the viewer, and there are times that this film was pretty funny. It’s all pretty tasteful humor, and the music was also great to listen to. Watney is pretty much stuck on Mars with disco as the only thing to listen to, so having that in the background of his Mars rover was pretty great. Donald Glover adds some fun to the film as well as Rich Purnell, the eccentric smart guy, but besides that The Martian is a pretty serious film.
To me, Kirsten Wiig as Annie Montrose, a NASA employee, was an obvious miscast here. She added absolutely nothing to the film, and was just a pretty face. The weird thing is that the film portrayed her as a more prominent character as she shows up multiple times throughout the film, but she just didn’t need to be there. I haven’t read the book, but I do know that cutting her character out would’ve been the right choice.
Everyone else did a fine job here, but there was a sense about halfway through the film that people were going through the motions, and I couldn’t help being reminded of Interstellar. Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain were in that as well, and they both seemed to be doing a 1.5 version of that character. If you haven’t seen that it’s definitely worth a watch.
So ultimately, The Martian was a decent film. The best thing about the movie was that it helped me to look forward to Prometheus 2 a bit more because of the way Scott handled the cinematography. The movie is so nice to look at, and it’s refreshing to see Scott back in space. But like Prometheus, this is a nice looking film that isn’t particularly memorable.