A manned mission to Mars goes terribly wrong when a fierce sandstorm leaves NASA astronaut Mark Watney missing and presumed dead. Still alive and left for dead, he and must find a way to contact NASA and create enough food for himself to survive alone on the fourth planet from the sun while NASA cooks up with a way to rescue him.
In anticipation of seeing The Martian, I decided to read, or rather, listen to the novel written by Andy Weir, via my Audible subscription. I thoroughly enjoyed the book as much as its excellent narration by R.C Bray. Ridley Scott, meanwhile, took up the task of translating the book into a movie. If anything else, The Martian rocks a stellar cast. Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean, and Jeff Daniels, the movie reads like a Who’s Who of Hollywood. That’s not always a recipe for success, but in this case, it certainly was successful.
The Martian boasts the best performance of Matt Damon’s career who undoubtedly plays the PERFECT Watney. If I had to boil the The Martian down to three words it would be “Castaway meets Contact,” especially considering what the actor himself endured. Undergoing the same dramatic weight loss as Tom Hanks in the former, Damon’s Watney endures all the horrendous physical and psychological torture of the book and it always shows.
The rest of the cast are in fine form. There is not one member who doesn’t bring their A-game. No performances were phoned in here. Of all the cast (excluding Damon), my favorites were Jeff Daniels as Teddy Sanders Director of NASA and Jessica Chastain as Commander Lewis, the commander of Hermes the crew’s main ship. Chiwetel Ejiofor is also excellent as Mars Mission Director Venkat Kapoor, cast only three weeks prior to filming following the unfortunate departure of Jurassic World‘s Irrfan Khan. After listening to Bray’s Kapoor on the audio book, I always thought Khan would have been cast, and so he was, but it was not to be.
The movie also has a superb visual style. The line between the spotless CGI and Jordan desert where it was filmed is seamless. This is all greatly enhanced by the fact I saw it in 3D, which I implore you to see this movie in. Shot in Real3D, the IMAX 3D does the full experience justice. The scenes on earth are well done, but the movie really come into it’s own when you see Watney set against this vast unforgiving landscape and the shots in space. The visuals are aided by a brilliant score penned by Harry Gregson-Williams.
Though The Martian has Ridley Scott written all over it, huge credit must go to screenwriter Drew Goddard who succinctly adapts Weir’s 369 page novel. There won’t be any surprises for anyone that’s read the book, such as myself, though I can’t say that it lessened my experience one bit. On the contrary, it only heightened my suspense for what was coming. The one criticism the book originally received was it being too heavy on science, but that isn’t the case here. Scott and Goddard have managed to make The Martian as accessible to the casual viewer as the layman, one of the things last year’s Interstellar failed at.
The book’s humor also translates well to the big screen. There are some really funny moments, whether it be Watney “sciencing the shit” out of Mars, his love-hate relationship with his crew’s taste in music, or the NASA crew’s equally amusing scenes back home. The Martian just hits the right spot on all fronts and its upbeat vibe is complimented by a soundtrack inspired by not only space, but its actual collection of music.
Being such of a huge fan of NASA, some of my favorite movies of all time have been movies like Apollo 13, Contact and The Right Stuff. The Martian shares that same level of tension and what a single man can accomplish. Nevertheless, it grows a bit predictable towards its end and after the final act, there are a few scenes that don’t really feel needed.
I’ll come right out and say it, The Martian is my favorite movie of the year so far. It excels on all fronts with Damon at his finest and a superb supporting cast. Beautifully shot and masterfully directed, its flawless CGI never disappoints and its superb 3D makes you feel like you’re really there on the Red Giant. If there is one film you make the time to see, make sure it’s The Martian. Only time will tell if another space flick will change that come December.
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