The Martian manages to bring beauty and humour to a desolate wasteland.
The film follows the story of Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon, after his crew aborted their mission on Mars during a violent storm that could have trapped them on the planet. Mark is assumed deceased after a satellite dish breaches his suit. The breach was sealed by shrapnel and blood, and he awakes the next “sol” (martian day) as the last man on Mars.
The movie splits often after this, focusing on Mark’s survival on Mars, while keeping the audience informed on how the situation is being handled on Earth, starting with the announcement by NASA they had lost one of their astronauts.
The film is mind-bogglingly beautiful, especially for a planet that was believed to be completely desolate. The cinematography was headed by Dariusz Wolski who has worked previously with Ridley Scott on Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014) and Prometheus (2012) another film that made hostile environments sublime. The planet is understandably orange, and to set those bright outdoor scenes apart from the indoor and Earth scenes, the setting is masterfully crafted to create a complimentary colour palette. Wolski’s talent also shines through the colossal wide shots that put the viewer on Mars.
Ridley Scott’s direction is nothing to scoff at either, a lot of the humour was executed in ways that could not be accomplished through the book, such as juxtaposing an event with Matt Damon’s deadpan log books, creating an absurd humour. His expertise with isolation also shines through in The Martian with what we have previously seen in Alien (1979). Many transitions between scenes display how tentative his connection with other life is, and highlighting how insignificant he is on such an immense planet, an example being a seamless transition between NASA’s grainy satellite images of Mark’s miniscule HAB (deep space habitat) and the live shot of him working from the same distance.
The acting, however, shows a full scale of skill. Matt Damon is beyond commendation for his performance, most of the scenes were one hundred percent reliant on him, and I was drawn in so well that I often forgot the scene had only him and a computer. Many other characters, however, were neglected such as the crew which included Jessica Chastain and Kate Mara, both of whom have had excellent roles in award-winning productions. Jeff Daniels, who plays Teddy Sanders, the head of NASA, makes an excellent portrayal of the current space program’s position, unwilling to take major risks for fear of having all funding stripped. The rest of the cast was forgettable, not so bad that I’m left wondering “what happened?” but not so amazing that I’m left loving their character.
However, the film sat firmly upon Matt Damon’s shoulders and he carried it well, and with how stunning the film looked and how engaging the direction was, the rest of the cast is easy to ignore. I would definitely recommend this film, and if you are going to rush to the cinema, be sure to catch a 3D showing, the added depth transforms the space and Mars scenes from beautiful to breathtaking. – Christopher Pirina
Top photo of Matt Damon as Mark Watney, the main character of “The Martian”, from official Fox site.