Ever since I read Andy Weir’s book The Martian, I’ve been itching to see its screen adaption with Matt Damon as Mark Watney. Anticipation was definitely there, expectations were definitely high and even though it didn’t bump Mad Max: Fury Road off its pedestal, The Martian hit all the right notes and is an amazing example of a sci-fi movie that makes you wonder how capable the human race is against the vast and mysterious universe.
Successfully launched some spoilers.
One of the main reasons I loved the book, was not only because the narrator Mark Watney (Matt Damon) was smart, funny and extremely likable, but because the plot was so simple. In a sentence, I can tell you what The Martian is about: Mark Watney, considered dead by the entire world, is left behind on Mars by his crew. If that doesn’t catch your attention, I’m sure knowing a little about Andy Weir’s writing process will give you a little extra push. According to Weir, most of the science in the book is true, and a lot of the materials that could be used to launch a manned mission that could land on Mars, already exists. Sure, the space uniforms are not nearly as flexible, yet the prospect of them is still apparent and Weir, who is a science nerd by his own words, loves to speculate within the realm of possibilities. Therefore, consider this, The Martian is, though not in the current moment in time, a likely situation that could take place in a near future and the amount of scientific accuracy is probably the reason NASA is as excited about it as we all should be.
Keeping the scientific element in the movie was definitely a challenge, and having read the book, I know it would have been impossible to include everything. Despite of it, there was still enough shit to science and it was especially great to have those educational moments in a blockbuster movie which could, in turn, raise interests in science for younger generations. In other words, my appreciation for The Martian is not only on a cinematic level, but it also makes me happy to see that a blockbuster movie as a medium raises awareness towards something great. Sure, we have Prometheus, Interstellar and Gravity, but those movies don’t come even close to the reality of The Martian. Categorized as a science-fiction movie, The Martian has, without a doubt, drawn the line of fiction so close to reality, that it is exciting beyond anything I’ve seen in the cinema this year.
And not only was the science exiting in The Martian, the whole movie was a thrilling experience from beginning to end. We first see the whole crew of Ares 3 on Mars when a big storm hits and they are forced to evacuate the planet but not everybody makes it to the MAV, Mark Watney is hit by debris and is presumed dead. But he is not, Watney is alive and before we know it, we see him digging a piece of metal out of his abdomen and staple the wound back together. If I had any doubts about Matt Damon’s capability in his role, that first scene made them all disappear and I was fully invested in seeing him survive on planet Mars. For me Damon has always been a good actor, but after watching The Martian, I have a feeling he has some greatness in him as well. Being able to portray a character everybody roots for, and everyone loves, is not an easy task but he does it with ease. And since The Martian has more than one funny moment, it’s especially great to witness Damon’s comedic timings. Though, there were definitely others, such as Kristen Wiig and Donald Glover, who provided additional humor to some serious situations.
As the majority of the movie takes place on a planet where Watney is alone, the direction become an important element in order to make it more interesting. I loved the fact that multiple cameras were used as a way to tell a story – webcams, rover-cam, suit-cams – though alone, the perspective the viewer was given, was interesting and refreshing. Not to mention the transitions which made the jumps from Mars to Earth, and in time, feel smooth and effortless. Even the sped-up sequences felt somehow new to me and though I can’t be 100% certain there hasn’t been anything like that before, I still feel like The Martian had some very innovative visual storytelling elements. And most importantly, though Ridley Scott and Dariusz Wolski were also coworkers on Prometheus, The Martian felt completely different and a brighter space story. And I think Scott, despite his recent filmography, is again on top and has taken back the space as his.
My favorite among the dozen other favorites, was the script by Drew Goddard – the same guy who wrote the Daredevil series for Netflix. The reason why I appreciate his work a lot is the amount of time he gave each segment, each element of the story and emphasized certain things from the book. There wasn’t a sequence that felt out of place, or redundant – on the contrary, I would have loved to see more. Sure, some of the material could have been left out, but considering The Martian runs for 2 hours and 20 minutes, the script definitely is an important element that determines whether a long running movie makes it or breaks it. Besides, Goddard was able to transfer the humor from book to screen, some of the profanity was also kept and I thought Scott’s decision to add two silent f-bombs into the movie was brilliant. Though Donald Grover’s character Rich Purnell was completely different from what I imagined him in the book, and maybe a little too out there for a scientist, I still appreciated all the characters on Earth – in written form, as well as, in their casting and acting.
Though the amount of time the rest of the Ares 3 crew got on screen, Jessica Chastain, Sebastian Stan, Kate Mara, Michael Pena and Aksel Hennie were all there for a reason. And between them all, they had some great moments, either with Watney directly or with each other, which gave The Martian a much needed dimension. Though my favorite moment in the book, which describes the dynamics in the Ares 3 crew and the importance of Watney, wasn’t present in the movie, the feeling of it was still there. In the very beginning, when the MAV takes off, and there’s an empty chair where Watney should be, I literally teared up! I had read the book, I knew he was alive and what the outcome of the movie would be, and yet, that small little moment made me sad and it described my favorite book segment perfectly. So well done, Scott, well done Mara and Chastain, for making me feel the feelings!
That brings me to feelings, which were positive throughout the movie and well after I left the cinema. The Martian is a feel good hero movie of a man who survives on Mars by growing potatoes in human waste. The character development, though Watney’s will to survive felt indefinite, was still evident and the backstory on Earth was a great addition to showcase how it is hard not to root for a hero. Combined with great visual representation, fun ways of showing Watney in his limited space and effortless editing, The Martian is a near perfect movie and certainly a shoe in for many many awards! Despite of this, I still gave The Martian 4,5 out of 5 stars because of the following reasons: 1) the ending was changed from the book and it distracted me a little because I found it a little too embellished (the commander was not the one to go out in space to capture Watney because it was Beck’s task and it should have been in the movie as well) and 2) it was no Mad Max: Fury Road and out of respect towards the best movie of the year, I detracted some points from The Martian. This being said, The Martian is amazing and considering the almost complete scientific accuracy, probably the coolest science movie ever!