Film: The Martian – astonishingly fun and funny
Ridley Scott has always been a fantastic director. However, the problem with Scott has always been his ability to find and direct plot as oppose to world building. The landscapes and worlds of ‘Prometheus’ and ‘Exodus’ are jaw dropping but the plot always fades away. ‘The Martian’ is teeming with jaw dropping visuals and a fantastic screenplay and marks a return to form for Ridley Scott.
After a NASA manned mission to Mars is forced into an emergency evacuation due to an anomalous storm, team member Mark Watney is stranded on Mars. NASA and the team believe Watney to be dead but Watney is very much alive. Watney must survive for as long as he can alone on Mars and find a way to contact NASA or he risks dying on another planet.
Drew Goddard writes the screenplay from an Andy Weir novel of the same name. Goddard manages to take all the humour, the science and the vastness of space and transfer it astonishingly to the big screen. ‘The Martian’ is fun and funny and heartwarming and tense and everything you want from a summer film. It will inspire young audiences to delve into science, it will enthuse a generation to look to the stars and it will bring Matt Damon an Oscar nomination.
As is expected for a film that centres on a sole survivor on Mars, the film weighs heavily on Matt Damon’s performance. His delivery has charisma, wit and whimsy and as a result is delightful company every second. There is one particular scene where Damon’s Mark Watney records a video log, telling us that he’s the best botanist on the planet and that he is primed to survive and contact NASA. That’s the wit of ‘The Martian’ – its fun and it makes you laugh but it isn’t afraid to focus down into dimly lit moments of self-implosion and degradation that are beautifully acted by Damon. In one scene you can see the excitement and youthful exuberance in Watney’s face, whilst another will exude nothing but defeat and exhaustion. The range of Damon’s acting, emotion and physical, is in full display here – and what a display to behold.
‘The Martian’ also features a deeply impressive supporting cast playing bit part roles. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Jeff Daniels are so good and convincing in their roles that they will undoubtedly be overlooked. They blend and melt into their characters so well that they become them and audiences will find it hard to separate the actors’ achievements from the character. Sean Bean and Kristen Wiig are good in their small roles. Donald Glover is funny, eccentric and bubbly as the aerodynamics engineer whilst Benedict Wong is a hidden gem. Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Kate Mara and Sebastian Stan are all fanciful in their roles with Chastain doing wondrous things with little screen time in particular.
Much of the film focuses on Watney’s botanical and mathematical skills on the red planet and it is through this experimentation and discovery that young audiences will find a new angle on science. The story is so endearing, the fight to be someone, that audiences have no choice but to let go and breathe it all in. the final third of the film is ludicrous in its tension. It is extremely reminiscent of Alfonso Cuaron’s ‘Gravity’ but amidst all the anxiety it manages to involve elation and comedy with subtlety and intellect.
‘The Martian’ is astonishingly fun and funny. Mat Damon steals the show in the lead role and should be nominated for an Oscar for his achievement. But it is on the backs of a vast supporting cast that Damon, Ridley Scott and Drew Goddard deliver something very special indeed. ‘The Martian’ is one of the best films released this year.
Score – B+