How convenient that in the same week NASA find water on Mars, Ridley Scott’s red planet based epic drops in theatres. Following cult success for other space venture movies Gravity and Interstellar, The Martian follows into similar territory.
Adapted from the book by Andy Weir, six astronauts are sent to Mars to grab some samples when their plans are halted by a violent storm. As a result of this heavy weather, botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is left stranded on this lifeless planet when the rest of the crew, Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan and Aksel Hennie, are left with no choice but to abandon their colleague.
After being wiped out by flying debris, Mark awakes after the storm unable to communicate with neither his ship nor NASA and therefore comes to terms with the fact that he will need to establish a long-term survival plan. This involves planting his own potatoes and harvesting using a makeshift fertiliser – his own poo. Naturally, this brings a couple of laughs and that’s the general light-hearted feel that is conveyed throughout the movie, with Damon’s lonely wisecracks also playing a key role in the film’s humourous components.
Back on earth, NASA, headed by a stubborn Jeff Daniels alongside a crack team including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig and Sean Bean, along with the important input of an amiable Donald Glover, attempt to figure a plausible tactic of bringing back Mark once they discover that their man is still alive.
Like most films based in space, The Martian really does deserve to be watched on the big screen. As you might imagine, the movie wasn’t actually filmed on Mars but instead in Wadi Rum, Jordan. It’s vast red sand plains and spontaneous mountain formations provide the perfect setting for the movie, and look incredibly authentic. It’s by far the most impressive aspect of the movie.
A film in which the issue takes over a year to resolve is naturally going to be of the long variety. At times The Martian does feel like it’s dragging somewhat – there are a few moments where the complex space jargon is lost amongst the non-science geeks. The fun, expressive nature of some of the dialogue makes up for that though – “I’m going to science the shit out of this” is the average Joe level of science the majority can relate to. There are plenty of laughs, which is a nice surprise. To an extent, this means the film loses its nail biting edge, but given Scott’s latest attempts at that type of product (Exodus, Prometheus), it’s probably best to keep the audience laughing rather than sighing.
The Martian is visually impressive above all else. Oddly it feels like a safe movie for Scott at the moment given it’s immense subject matter. Without ever truly taking off, the end result is an exciting space blockbuster that must be appreciated on the big screen.