“I’m going to science the shit out of this.”
Before I begin, I will openly admit, I have not read “The Martian” novel by Andy Weir. I plan on reading it, but for now I will be just reviewing the move starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastina, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, and Chiwetel Ejofor. Please note the cast is much-much larger, but I’m choosing them mostly because I selfishly really like the actors! I digress. I will try to avoid as many spoilers a possible and instead focus upon what I felt were the strong points about this movie.
Without reading the book I can say that overall the acting, the writing, and the general pacing of this novel was far less strenuous than say, Intersteller. I loved Matthew Mcconaughey and Anne Hathaway’s (I felt her part was a little less fleshed out, but she did best with what she was given) acting. But the story and the pacing of it dragged in several areas. But we are here to discuss the Martian so let us begin.
As spoiled by the trailer, Mark Watney, a botanist from the ARES II mission is left behind alone on Mars. The story takes it from there showcasing the various attempts by others and Watney himself as he tries to survive. This movie could easily have lasted longer or have been shorter than it was. However, one thing the movie does well is to focus pacing between the return of the original mission; attempts by NASA for rescue; and weighing it all against the life of a singular astronaut. Many of the scenes in the series feature an utterly dry wry humor. Lines such as “FUCK YOU MARS” and a PR rep discussing a dead astronaut, are all pretty morbid.
Where this movie shines though is the character and humanity given to everyone. Most of the characters from a random sleeping geek to the constant ethical debates between Rich Hendernson (Sean Bean) versus Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) all add to the building tension. The movie in this retrospect is constantly building tension and a sense of thrill. There are no jump scares, but there are the dangers of space and colonizing an alien environment. In the background of all tension is the need for survival and attempts to stay alive.
Time often moves quickly in the story, pacing is done in short jolts between conversations or scenes with those on earth. Or Watney finding out solutions to his problems or talking about how much he hates a particular song. This back and forth to me had me laughing and then on the edge of my seat several times throughout the film. Intermixing the two senses along with a relative calm creates a consistent pacing which I respect.
The other two things that really stood out to me were the scenes on Mars itself, and the soundtrack. A lot of the sound effects and music in general focused on creating not only a sense of grandeur, but loneliness. Here was a man left on a dead planet, and he alone had to survive. Then a team must rescue him, and try not to die in the great expanse of space itself. All of it brings the view toward a feeling of each day or “sol” ticking away nother bit of a person’s life. When Mars is traversed we get a sense of not only danger, but deserted beauty. Tall dust devils cross the ground, a distant sun bleeds across the red sand.
Honestly this film redeemed Ridley Scott for his work on Exodus (to a certain degree). I won’t go into a tangent of y problems with Exodus (bad bad bad casting decisions). The movie was more a reminder to me of earlier works such as Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven in the character and direction of the film in general.
In conclusion, I would give the movie a 4/5 for some slight drag in a few parts, and a few moments that seem a bit over the top in the tension building. But overall its one of the top movies of the year and one of my favorites right up there with Mad Max and Kingsman!