The Martian, a star-studded space survival flick, hit theaters last weekend, surrounded by the hum of Oscar buzz. Directed by Ridley Scott (“Alien”, “Blade Runner”), the big budget film has been experiencing widespread critical success.
The film begins with six astronauts, all experienced in different fields, ranging from botany to chemistry, researching on the planet Mars. One night while completing their various tasks, a severe storm hits. On the way back to the shuttle, a pice of debris flies through the air, knocking astronaut Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon (“The Bourne Identity”, “Good Will Hunting”), away from the rest of the crew. Thinking his suit has punctured and he has died of exposure, the crew has no choice but to reluctantly leave without him, as staying any longer would risk the lives of them all.
Miraculously, Watney eventually comes to on the planet of Mars, stranded, injured and alone, but alive. Using the supplies left over from his initial mission, Watney struggles to find a way to survive on Mars until the next mission is due to land in four years. After making contact with NASA, it becomes a tireless worldwide effort to bring him home, against all odds.
This film is certainly not Ridley Scott’s first foray into the cinematic world of space, but it seems that space is where he hits his strongest strides. Visually, the cinematography of The Martian is stunning. Using the landscape of Hungary as a stand-in for the desolate Mars, the special effects along with natural terrain certainly make for a remarkable imitation of the sprawling rusty sands and rocky ridges of the red planet.
The star-studded cast also shines throughout this space adventure. Matt Damon, left alone on the planet of Mars, is forced to monologue most of his lines to a camera confessional.
Though you might think this lack of interaction would lead to dry scenes, Damon does a fantastic job of carrying his side of the story. His quick quips made throughout harrowing circumstances keep a comedic element to the film in even the most distressing of scenes. Damon packs Watney so full of personality and smarts that it really wouldn’t have even mattered if he were the only character in the movie; it still would’ve been worth watching.
Damon isn’t the only standout in the film. This movie is packed with star power, and it pays off. Jessica Chastian (“Zero Dark Thirty”, “The Help”) plays an excellent mission commander to a colorful crew, with personality quirks and engaging dialogue that make the characters seem like real people, not just underdeveloped side plots. Jeff Davis (“Dumb & Dumber”) as the head of NASA and Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave”) as his right-hand man head up the dynamic team of researchers back on Earth, each one shining with intelligence but also relatability. Even though these characters aren’t necessarily the main focus of the film, they’re still developed and specifically unique, making each one stick out as their own individual cog in the widespread effort to rescue Watney.
Having such a star-studded cast might make it easier to skimp on the script, but you won’t find that excuse in The Martian. With a screenplay written by Drew Goddard (“World War Z”, “Cabin in the Woods”), the dialogue is never dry, even though it’s packed with science talk. Sometimes it can go over the head of a less informed viewer, such as myself. However, it always quick to turn any fancy science talk back around into layman’s terms. This is seen through Matt Damon’s snarky synopsis and Donald Glover’s complex math equations being simplified to metaphors with staplers.
Really, every part of this movie was fantastic. I can’t say enough good things about it. The script is well-written, the plot never drags on, and the characters are dynamic and engaging. This movie is a great watch for any viewer, no matter what genre you may prefer.