A fantastic book, a top-notch actor, and one of the best technical directors working, what wasn’t to like about The Martian?
Clocking in at 141 minutes, my only real issue with the film was that despite the fact that it gave you the number of sols Mark Watney (Matt Damon) spent alone on Mars on a regular basis, I never really got a sense of the sheer loneliness that the book (wonderfully written by Mark Weir) gave me. Watney was always talking to the audience, via his log, and while the book does the same, it also helped convey how desperately alone he was.
Now if you stop and look at the numbers as they appear on the screen, and then truly think about it, its mind-numbing, Watney IS alone. The only living being on Mars, left behind and presumed dead, by his crewmates, and captain, Lewis (Jessica Chastain), of the Ares III mission, when a massive storm causes them to abort a planned 31 day stay on the surface and return to their ship in orbit, the Hermes.
Watney, low on supplies, must find a way to grow food on a planet that is inhospitable at best, and survive until the next mission arrives, which according to the numbers is four years away.
Back on Earth, the head of NASA, Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels), as well as flight directors, Mars mission directors and PR people, including Henderson (Sean Bean), Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Annie Montrose (Kristen Wiig), debate whether to risk everything (future Mars missions, NASA’s very name, and the crew of the Hermes) to try to rescue one man.
Tightly paced, marvellously acted, and embracing the science that is simply rampant in the book, the film version is fantastically enjoyable, meticulously crafted, and a stunning piece of film. Damon is at the top of his game, balancing the humour and the drama of the life threatening event that he finds himself in, and the need to stay positive and optimistic as he works the problem.
And here, I have to stop and mention the beautiful visual effects work, the space sequences are amazing, realistic, and makes me want to walk the decks of the Hermes, and the color tint and movie magic to turn Earth-bound locations and sets into the surface of Mars – I had to remind myself a couple of times that there really wasn’t a film crew on mars shooting all this stuff… Simply stunning.
As mentioned the only real issue I had was that it truly didn’t convey his loneliness, and also there were a few moments in the book that I would have loved to see in the film – the sheer despair he has when after establishing communication with Earth, he loses it again… Being so close to the MAV site, and then losing control of the rover… There are some fantastic moments that would have made his on-screen struggle even more powerful.
Which isn’t to say the film isn’t powerful, or beautiful, or equally full of despair and hope, it is, it really is, but I walked out hoping, needing a longer cut… maybe when it gets a home video release.
Still, it’s a gorgeous film, needs to be seen on the big screen, and if you really enjoyed it, I can’t help but urge you to get your hands on a copy of the incredibly brilliant book!
It’s a film like this that fires my imagination for space exploration (we could be there already, exploring, discovering, learning as much about ourselves as the new worlds in which we find ourselves), much as the book did, and makes me admit once again, that Ridley Scott is probably one of the best technical directors working today!
This is one to kick the tires, light the fires, and inspire us to get out there, boldly go, and see the beauty of the universe…
Get out there and see this one, then let’s talk!