Martian, The (2015)

Ridley Scott is back in some style with this largely captivating stranded-in-Mars sci-fi adventure that is a potent mix of science and thrills.  

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #1,218

Dir. Ridley Scott
2015 | USA/UK | Drama/Adventure/Sci-Fi | 141 mins | 2.39:1 | English

PG13 (passed clean) for some strong language, injury images, and brief nudity

Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sebastian Stan
Plot: 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.
Awards: Nom. for 7 Oscars – Best Picture, Best Leading Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Production Design, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, Best Visual Effects
Distributor: Fox

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Lost in Space; Survival; Teamwork
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: In Theatres
First Published: 1 Oct 2015
Spoilers: No


Adapted from Andy Weir’s bestselling novel by screenwriter Drew Goddard (who wrote and directed The Cabin in the Woods (2012)), The Martian proves two things: One, a movie means nothing without a great story and a character that you can empathize and root for.  Two, this is the movie that the less enthralling Prometheus (2012) wished it had been. 

Matt Damon stars as Mark Watney, an astronaut-botanist left behind on Mars when he was struck by debris in a fierce storm.  His close-knit crew and the entire human race back on Earth think he is dead. 

So Mark wakes up in a daze, injured but alive, and finds himself alone on a foreign planet.  Well, no one can ever lay claim to that, and as he would humour you throughout the film, there are dozens of facts that he is proud to boast about. 

“I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this.”

You might be surprised how funny a blockbuster of this scale and seriousness can be.  After all, the film is about someone stuck on Mars with dwindling basic necessities, and close to zero communication.  That is as horrifying as you can get, but the view is extraordinary. 

Scott finds a magical balance of drama, spectacle and comedy, not to mention making the hard sciences seem so friendly.  Damon’s performance is endearing, and by the time things get do-or-die, we have no qualms in supporting a character we aren’t afraid to love, through thick or thin air. 

The Martian moves straightforwardly, even predictably, but it is largely captivating throughout.  The climax is incredibly suspenseful – I literally braced myself in my seat.  It is an experience that I recall having felt when I first saw Apollo 13 (1995) when I was seven. 

Smartly plotted and wholly embracing the value of positive thinking while being grounded in practical outcomes, The Martian is inspiring, accessible and should deserve to do well at the box-office. 

Grade: B+


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