Because of work-related issues and whatever else, there are always a stack of movies I don’t get around to seeing on the big screen. And last eyar’s massively successful “The Martian” was one such example. But now with the home release available, I have my chance to right that wrong, and see for myself if this indeed will be one of the defining movies of 2015.
Director Ridley Scott returns with his latest big-budget adventure, following a crew of Astronauts who are on a manned mission to Mars. They have already had time to set up base, but an unexpected storm forces the mission to be aborted. During their escape to the ship one of the crew members (Matt Damon) gets struck by an object caught in the fierce winds. And with no time to risk searching for him, the crew must leave the planet.
Mark Watney is feared dead by the crew, and indeed the world, but he manages to survive and make it back to the now-deserted mission base. But now he faces an immense task – to survive on an unknown, inhospitable planet until a rescue mission can be put together to save him. The Science kicks in, and he powers on to stay alive.
It is the design of a rescue mission that has been told before, but what makes this example stick out from the crowd is the realism with which it is portrayed. It really does feel like a NASA mission in the not-very-distant future, the look and design to everything is very familiar and is set into the world. even the small things like the control panels and living areas in the mission base are very like how a normal space mission would be designed. It makes the story instantly draw you in , and never really raises concerns that corners were shaved in the aesthetic.
Matt Damon takes on the majority of the screen time since as he is the only Astronaut left on Mars after the crew escapes, we spend a lot of time getting to know his character and how he ticks. He is given a dose of comedic thinking and that down-to-Earth look upon things that makes for great protagonists, but he’s also a very intelligent character being able to get out of almost any situation using his qualifications and imagination. Matt plays the role brilliantly, I really do have to applaud his performance in here. He never over-steps the line his character is set or looks like he is sealing the camera time – instead we watch his day to day escapades that always have interesting events and quirks going on.
Jessica Chastain as the Mission Commander plays the role exactly as it should be played. She has to make the big decisions and decide for the crew, so she is very level-minded and thoughtful. Sadly she doesn’t get that much screen time, but, a perfectly good performance all the same. Other note-worthy names are Chiwitel Ejiofor as the Mars Mission Director, and Sean Bean as the ship’s Mission Director, who all have nice individual personalities for them. Donald Glover was the only actor I felt wasn’t given a good character as he plays the stereotypical “Science nerd”, who stumbles about in a Caffeine-induced level of controlled madness.
Another element that makes this stand out is that there’s no “villain” forcedly written into the story just to create conflict. The conflict rather comes from different parties trying to look out for what they personally see as the most important aspect. When someone goes against something to help Mark Watney, you can see his side of reasoning even if you disagree with it. It makes for a much more interesting battle of inner politics that is going on unseen to the public, or the Astronauts affected.
Massive praise must go to the set designers and conceptual artists too, who made the world of Mars as well as the Space travel look amazing. It is hard to see any edges to the effects that may signify to your brain that what you are seeing is a replication. The second I saw the bleak red landscape in the daylight, I knew this film was on to be a winner. The same goes for the design of the suits, the Rover, the shuttle, even the laptop Matt uses. Either Ridley raided the NASA research department, or I missed out on something, because it was all beautifully accurate.
Now, you know me guys. I consider only a handful of films to be “perfect”, and I always tend to find problems with even great flicks. This shall be no exception to that, sorry. The issue was with what ultimately became the final plan for the rescue mission. Now, I’m saying I predicted exactly HOW they did it, but I predicted early on what would be used to implement the rescue. It was always the plot device that was hanging there above the screen, out f sight but you knew damm well what was about to unfold. Is it as much a problems to cause genuine issues for me? Hmm…. not as much as I thought really. Writing around the problem would have allowed even worse problems to squeeze their way into the screenplay, so weighing both propositions side by side, they probably went with the right choice.
“The Martian” will become one of the movies from 2015 that will be remembered many, many years from now. Sure, it won’t be a major Oscar winner (probably) but it was immensely enjoyable, clever, funny, exciting, well acted, well shot, and brought Science to the front-centre in a wonderfully genuine way. Other movies tend to bend the rules of realism until they snap and destroy the immersion, but this got it right on the money. I must say, bravo Ridley, you made it back to some of your old form! I’m actually thinking of buying the Blu Ray for this since I can see plenty of dull afternoons which this will brighten up. And, SCIENCE!!!
Thanks for reading!