A story of hope and surviving in the direst of circumstances, The Martian is a surprisingly light-hearted film that provides all the entertainment value you could wish for, even if it does take a half hour too long to get anywhere…
In a week which brought us NASA’s announcement of liquid water on Mars, it’s hard not to see the irony in the release of Ridley Scott’s latest film, The Martian. The film (based on the bestselling novel of the same name) follows the story of astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) after he is accidentally stranded on Mars following an emergency evacuation of the manned mission he is a part of. It looks at the journey he must take and the actions and feelings of the people on Earth and his crew who abandoned him, as they try frantically to rescue him.
Almost immediately, The Martian earns its place in my good books by not making the oh so common mistake of hanging around for half an hour of character development before the action begins. On the contrary, Damon’s character finds himself stranded alone on Mars within the first few minutes of the film opening. This is rather a refreshing approach to take to a film of this type and for me personally it made the film more enjoyable, since the viewer gets to learn more about the characters as the film goes on. Despite this fast-paced start, however, the film drags terribly in the middle section, meaning that a film that comes in at just under two and a half hours feels much longer. The only saving grace of this is that we get to see more of Damon as the incredible likeable, surprisingly funny leading man. Another notable performance is that of Jessica Chastain as the commander of the Ares III manned mission to Mars. There are many other recognizable faces in the cast, including Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan and Kate Mara, but many of them seem to be there for the pull their name provides or their aesthetic appeal only, with no character depth at all.
Visually, the film is impressive, with wide shots of space and the barren surface of Mars benefitting from the 3D effects. It is interesting to note that the science of the film is actually surprisingly accurate, especially when compared to the frankly laughable science seen in other recent films about outer space. Another interesting point is that The Martian is one of the few science fiction films which has no villain (extra-terrestrial or otherwise). This is particularly shocking when compared to other works by Ridley Scott.
Overall, The Martian is an enjoyable film, with Damon stealing the show. Both fans of science-fiction and people who prefer films with more focus on relationships and personal turmoil will enjoy it. It is surprisingly topical (which I am sure Ridley Scott must be thanking his lucky stars for) and despite dragging a little in the middle section, it has a good enough mix of tension and light hearted moments to keep the viewer entertained – but only just.
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean,
Genre: Science fiction
Running Time: 141 minutes