I have previously written about The Martian aka the book, and – spoiler – I loved it. However, I was lucky to be given the book by one of my friends prior to the movie hype; otherwise I would have probably avoided going to see it in the cinema. Having heard it being referred to as ‘a movie where Matt Damon reprises the role of that guy from Interstellar, oh, and Jessica Chastain is also there’, really didn’t present The Martian in the right light to me. Personally, I did not like Interstellar and was not looking forward to another ‘the most scientifically accurate movie about space.’ Luckily, the book had already sold me on the concept.
• Director: Ridley Scott
• Exhibition: 2D
• Rating: 13
• Run Time: 142 mins
Mark Watney, NASA’s astronaut gets stranded on Mars. Everyone else thinks he has died and Mark has no communication with Earth to tell them otherwise. Somehow Mark has to survive on the desert red planet and get back to Earth. This is as much of the plot as I will reveal about the movie as to not spoil those how have not seen it yet. Unfortunately, if you have seen the trailer, you have been spoiled on almost all major plot twists in the story. However, arguably, the plot is not as significant to the enjoyment of the movie when compared to how this plot is presented on screen though the characters and their actions. While some of the plot twists are definitely interesting and keep you guessing as to how the story will unfold, the overarching concept is not a novel one. The Martian is just Robinson Crusoe on Mars; with less palm trees; and with cooler gadgets; and science, really awesome science. So while the story might be predictable, it is Mark’s character and how he manages to survive that does it for me. I, however, accept that I might be slightly biased, having been spoiled on the plot through the book. I will also hasten to add, that knowing the story did not make the movie any less interesting and or subtract from those climatic moments.
I also thought Matt Damon was perfect as Mark Watney, nailing the protagonist’s sense of humour but also showing his many struggles, the first being he is the only man on the planet. While we don’t get to know other character’s in the story as much as we get to know Mark, NASA scientists and the astronauts of the spaceship Hermes, the movie does a good job of getting essential information across. The Hermes crew are a little family, with their own quips and jokes, who care very much for each other and are shattered by losing Mark. NASA scientists are a wonderful array of geeks, workaholics and clever men and women, who will keep trying to get Mark back to Earth no matter what. Some of the amazing talents starring in The Martian include Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wig and many other very gifted actors. While I can see where the comments about the lack of secondary character development are coming from, The Martin is about Mark Watney. Expanding on the other characters would distract from the main story and mess with the pace of the film.
To me the unsung hero of the movie is Drew Goddard, who did some amazing work on adapting from the book. It is never an easy task to transform a book into a film, especially one which uses a lot of first person narrative and where a reader spends so much time inside the protagonist’s head, but Drew Goddard did an amazing job of it. While, of course, there were some scenes I was sad to see not make it into a film, I could understand the reasons for leaving them out. The main reason, of course, being the pacing of the movie. While to me the movie seemed to finish almost in a blink of an eye, it is actually over two hours long. All the essential plot points were covered, none of the extras, no matter how funny or interesting, were necessary.
As much as I love the film, there was one scene right at the end that has dimmed my love for it slightly. I shouldn’t be surprised, as it was a very Hollywood style move to make the last ‘battle’ as dramatic as possible, with action that borders on fantastical and with the situations that push the definitions of ‘life and death’. For the movie that has been doing so well on making the story feel real, the overly heroic ‘last fight’ felt completely unnecessary and nullified all the good work done by the film previously. Without spoiling the ending of The Martian, I will describe the scene as follows. The filmmakers decided that three extremely dangerous, un-survivable and fantastical situations were not enough to demonstrate the full depth of the coolness and cleverness of the characters. So they added an even more dangerous, fantastical, over the top situation to nail in the point in deeper. To me this was one point too much. I got that space was dangerous and the characters are clever and cool from The Dangerous Situation #1, I didn’t need an Avengers style ending in this film.
Overall, I think The Martian is a great movie; in fact, it is one of the best adaptations I have ever seen! Matt Damon is Mark Watney, and the rest of the cast made the most out of their screen time. I have also thoroughly enjoyed a Sean Bean ‘Easter Egg’, which I suggest to look out for, if you love your extremely geeky references. Even a slight let down of the over exaggerated ‘final fight’, didn’t dampen my enjoyment of the movie. Also how long until we get a potato growing on Mars simulator game?
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