I was such a naive fool just a few months ago. I definitely thought I would be able to manage reading Andy Weir’s The Martian before the screen adaptation came out. As I’ve mentioned a million fucking times already, I’m not managing to read a damn thing at the moment. Especially when you consider that Aziz Ansari’s new show is up on Netflix. I’ll always love reading but, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, there’s always something else going on. I’ll wait til I can sit down and read a chapter without falling asleep I’ll get back on with the reading. Before that miracle happens, I’ll just go with the film version. Especially when it has more Matt Damon.
The Martian is the thrilling tale of one astronaut’s struggle to survive alone on Mars. After being mistakenly left for dead, Mark Watney must find a way to get by on a desolate planet with limited supplies. Mark, a botanist, manages to farm crops, get back in touch with Earth and survive in a harsh environment for around 600 Mars days. Back on Earth, a team at NASA must attempt to find a way to get supplies to the planet so Mark will be able to live until the next manned mission lands in four years.
This film pretty much lives and dies on the lead character because so much of the narrative rests on him alone. Matt Damon does an exceptional job and manages to ensure the film remains grounded in the realms of human emotion. Mark is a great character who shows a great tenacity and Damon plays him beautifully. It’s got to be one of his strongest performances to date. It’s the moments with Mark that keep the film together through the slightly dodgier scenes back on Earth.
Despite a quite epic cast list, that includes everyone’s favourite Sean fucking Bean, the plot that takes place back home as NASA work tirelessly to help Mark often threaten to bring the film down. The pacing is a little odd at times and the great actors are given fuck all to do anything with. There are so many characters on the sidelines that they all get forgotten about in the drama of rescue. Sean Bean and Jeff Daniels get a small chance to lock horns slightly as the flight director and NASA top-dog respectively. However, the rest of the cast just coast by with a few furrowed brows and scientific jargon.
Most unfortunately of all, Watney’s fellow crew members who are resigned to a couple of brief glimpses into their personal lives through video messages and flirty glances. Considering how wonderful the moments on Mars are it just doesn’t feel good enough. We deserve to know more about Jessica Chastain’s Commander Lewis and Michael Peña’s pilot. There should be more to the pathetic attempt at romance between Kate O’Mara and Sebastian Shaw’s characters than a quick peck on a space suit helmet. For a film so invested in it’s main character, the rest of the character development is annoyingly shitty.
Much more annoying than any potential scientific issues viewers may have found. As someone who just about scrapped by in A Level Chemistry, I can’t really comment on the accuracy of the science at play here. To be honest though, I don’t really give a shit. I said the same about Gravity and the I think realism was far more important to that plot. Ridley Scott went out of his way to ensure that enough of what was seen on screen was close to reality and, in my humble opinion, he does a good job. If anything, the most unrealistic part of this plot is the fact that Matt Damon’s character is apparently unmarried. What the fuck? The man’s a fucking god.
To be honest, the science doesn’t really matter. This is a film that refuses to take itself seriously and, against Christopher Nolan’s super serious Interstellar, The Martian is quick to point out its relaxed attitude. Watney is forever cracking jokes and pointing out the coincidences that allow the story to keep moving. The only aspect of the film that belies its unassuming nature is the length. The film is fucking obsessed with time and the number of Mars days (sols) that Mark has stranded is constantly being updated. The constant count, mixed with the problems with pacing in the narrative, has the effect of making the film feel as though you’ve been waiting as long as our astronaut. However, there’s so much charm on screen here that you won’t give a shit about it.