The Martian Review

The Martian
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Drew Goddard and Andy Weir
Starring: Matt Damon, Jeff Daniels, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Sean Bean Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mackenzie Davis and Donald Glover

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The Martian tells the story of a man who refuses to be broken despite insurmountable obstacles placed in his path, again and again. It’s smart, witty, and thought provoking.

If you threw up your hands and gave up on trying to comprehend Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar last year you were not alone. The Martian also relies heavily on hardcore scientific concepts, but it is much more accessible than Interstellar. I won’t pretend I understood everything in The Martian, but enough to find it enjoyable and suspenseful. I didn’t leave the theater feeling like an idiot, I felt exhilarated and inspired.

Matt Damon stars as Mark Watney, an astronaut who is separated from his crewmates when they have to abort their mission on Mars due to a massive storm. Once they lose his signal the crew commander Melissa (Jessica Chastain) concludes that Mark has perished and makes the tough call to leave the planet.

Mark awakens the next day buried in sand and makes his way back to the abandoned space station, utterly defeated and ruminating on the many ways he could/will die. Most of us would curl up in the fetal position and await our fate. However, Mark draws upon some inner fortitude and decides he won’t go down without a fight.

Watney takes the inventory in the station and comes to the grim conclusion that his food supplies are severely limited. Thankfully, he’s a botanist – possibly the only person that could be capable of growing food on an inhospitable planet. Watney encounters many roadblocks, but never succumbs to them. He eventually is able to make contact with NASA and the director of the program (played by Jeff Daniels), who vacillates between his desire to rescue Watney and the financial impracticality of doing so, not to mention the risk to any crew that would be sent to retrieve him.

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Despite their efforts to keep Watney’s survival under wraps, eventually the whole world learns of Watney’s plight. Suddenly NASA is facing a lot of pressure to bring Watney back to earth.

The Martian follows two distinct plot lines – Watney’s fight to survive and NASA’s human cogs who scramble to figure out a way to rescue Watney before his supplies run out. Who knows if this is even close to the way NASA operates, but it’s fun to speculate that we are seeing a bit of the inner workings behind the curtain.

The Martian easily could have been a depressing and bleak movie, but a surprising amount of comedy keeps the movie from becoming mired in misery. Despite everything, Watney maintains his sense of humor, as evidenced by the video journal he keeps.

The film is impeccably cast. Damon is terrific, so much so that I can’t imagine anyone else pulling off the role. He has an impressive ability to convey Watney’s feelings with subtle body language and he fully embraces Watney’s sense of humor. He makes the movie.

Damon is accompanied by a terrific ensemble cast: Jeff Daniels, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Sean Bean Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mackenzie Davis and Donald Glover flesh out secondary characters that play an integral part of the whole story.

The Martian is beautifully shot from locations in Hungary and Jordan. The barren landscape of Mars is enhanced by the 3D. Occasionally Mars looks manufactured, but that’s a minor quibble. My main complaint would be the running time (2 hours, 21 minutes). I felt that the last half hour could have been condensed without damaging the integrity of the narrative. Despite that, The Martian is a must see, and a legitimate Oscar contender. – Shannon

SCORE: 4.5 stars





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  • Digilog

    Excellent I was hoping to see that this weekend. How faithful to the book is it (assuming you read it of course)

  • Shannon Adams Hood

    Unfortunately, I have not read the book, so I can’t help you out there.

  • From what I’ve heard it’s pretty faithful to the book. They just had to remove some of the science explanations. But that was sort of expected.

  • Jason Black

    Very close to the book. One major set piece missing.
    The book didnt blow me away and nor did this.
    3.5/5
    Good not great

  • 1138sw

    I know it’s a minor quibble but didn’t they give Whatney a family? Wife and child? or children? I think in the book he just mentions his parents missing him. Minor detail but for some reason if this is true it kind of bothers me. It just seems to be overly manipulative and simplistic to amp up sympathy by giving Whatney a family.

    Having read the book I found the Whatney character to be just fine the way it was written.

  • I haven’t seen the movie myself, but if I remember correctly they mention a wife and kid in the trailer.

  • 1138sw

    Yes they do or at least that is what I inferred from the trailer and I can’t be sure since I also haven’t seen the movie myself.

  • Colyn Hill

    He does not have a wife and kids in the movie; the clip from the trailer is of one of the other astronauts communicating with his family.

  • I just rewatched the trailer. They combined Whatney’s voiceover saying “…tell my family…” with Whatney’s tormented face, and cut to a hand caressing a photo of a woman with a kid. So not too weird we got that impression, I guess :)

  • Digilog

    Watched a talk by Andy Weir and he explains that he didn’t want to give him a family because its to much of a gimmick, like what we are supposed to believe if you didn’t have a daughter at home you just craw up in to the fetal position and die. Anyway Saw the Movie it was really good. Matt Damon did a great job, really brought the character to life.

    For those who have read the book, they did have to leave out some of the problems he had, I can think of at least 3 major ones they had to remove due to time. While the overall ending is the same, they made a few tweaks (some not to its benefit in my opinion). I also don’t think they really were able to get across how much a dick the director of NASA was or how Mitch was working the Chinese teams so hard. However all that aside I really enjoyed it and give the movie 4/5

  • Beat_C

    probably THE overrated movie of the year. the scenes on mars were okay, but everything at NASA was terribly written, stiff and confusing. and the hands-across-the-world scenes plus kate mara holding her newborn baby … cringeworthy.