I haven’t read the book, but the premise is right up my alley – a lone survivor stranded in a hostile environment, forced to confront his own humanity and find the will to persevere?
That’s my jam.
But for some reason, I wasn’t. Maybe it was because the trailers for the film didn’t convey the sense of dread and desperation I would think someone in that situation might experience.
I’m happy to say though, after watching it, that ‘The Martian’ is everything it is supposed to be.
I was wrong. Get hyped.
I usually love Ridley Scott’s work, but then I’m a sucker for anyone who pays so much attention to history. With his science-fiction work it’s been hit and miss (‘Alien’ and ‘Prometheus’, anyone?). This year’s effort will no doubt go down as a “hit” though, and with good reason.
The directing is snappy, and absorbing. The script (adapted by Drew Goddard from Andy Weir’s book) is by turns tense and ridiculously funny – which in itself is a stunning achievement.
And, of course, the performances make it all work.
Matt Damon, as expected, humanises his character (Mark Watney) with all the skill we’ve come to expect from an actor of his calibre. And the substantial (and impressive) supporting cast – Jeff Daniels, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Donald Glover, Mackenzie Davis, and Chiwetel Ejiofor – all give performances that make us care about their various plights.
Some reviewers have stated that their only fault with the film is a lack of tension. And it’s true, it’s hard to balance Watney’s struggles with the sense of hope and wonder that his continued survival (and his determination in the face of overwhelming odds) evokes. And there are no “bad guys” in ‘The Martian’ for the protagonists to fight against, and that too makes it difficult. But also refreshing, in its way.
Ultimately, I think that ‘The Martian’ is one of the best “space films” ever produced; and that’s saying something, coming so close on the heels of ‘Gravity’ (2013) and ‘Interstellar’ (2014) as it does. It’s a love-letter to manned space exploration and the strength of the human spirit.
And if it inspires a few more people to look to the stars and wonder – well, that can only be a good thing, in my opinion.
Verdict: 5 stars (out of 5).