At the time of writing this, no human has ever set foot on Mars. While that’s true, it’s a planet that we as humans have studied and analyzed for generations. One reason for that is because it gets more and more fascinating as we continue to learn about all it has to offer. The other reason could be that it’s a planet that we will actually be able to reach sooner rather than later. I guess that’s why movies like The Martian continue to flourish and exist.
This Ridley Scott directed film stars Matt Damon as Mark Watney, an astronaut who gets stranded on Mars after a brutal storm forces his crew to evacuate the planet. He was first thought to be dead by everyone, but they soon find out that he somehow survived the ordeal. In order to keep this story from becoming a tragic one, all involved decide to do whatever they can to save the dedicated space traveler. While plans are being laid out, Watney himself has to use his intellect, knowledge and the limited supplies left behind to the best of his abilities until NASA can find a way to bring him home.
While The Martian is indeed a fine feature overall, I found it to be a difficult film to love and be completely engaged in. The primary reason for that comes down to the fact that you pretty much already know what’s going to happen even if you don’t know anything about the film or the book it’s based on. As one would likely anticipate going in, Matt Damon’s Mark Watney is given a great deal of threats thrown in his direction at every turn. The only issue here is that it all carries a feel of emptiness since it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize how it will all turn out.
It’s the same dilemma that some other movies that came before it are presented with. They constantly toss these supposedly dangerous situations at the main character(s), but it’s impossible to get caught up in any of it when the outcome is pretty much already known. For myself, this was hard to gloss over as I constantly had to try to ignore the obvious conclusions each and every time the stranded astronaut finds himself in any type of trouble.
Movies with the sort of premise seen in The Martian are hard to create in the first place. When you look at the fact that large chunks of the film features one person talking to himself, you shouldn’t be shocked when it begins to drag on a little. At times, this could also be a problem when you realize this is a film based primarily in space while speaking in terms that the average person wouldn’t understand. Under normal circumstances, I can see how some people may even lose focus here since they sometimes speak in terms that are exclusively scientific.
What makes The Martian work more than you might think based on the criticisms that I offer up is the unexpected comedic tone that it takes. I’m thinking that everyone on board knew the problems a movie like this usually creates, so making sure this feature was included to this extent was seen as a necessity. That’s where the attempts to make the audience laugh fit in. Without this element, this could have very well been another bland and lifeless film that could be easy to pass up on in spite of its long list of talented actors.
Speaking of the talented actors, this film has a well put together cast who helps in getting the necessary emotion and personality on-screen. Although essentially everyone outside of Matt Damon has only a small part, they are all putting their full effort into their roles. You could argue that this is because they’re working with Ridley Scott and a team of accomplished thespians, but it could be because they’re all just professionals. Either way, they’re wonderful additions who do what’s needed even if they don’t have as much screen time as they’re used to.
When looking at it in its entirety, The Martian is a decent movie in spite of it not being able to drum up all of the qualities needed to make it spectacular. The lack of genuine suspense does damage here, and its run time doesn’t do it any favors. Luckily, it is able to make you laugh whether it’s Matt Damon or one of the other actors who get a chance to deliver some amusing dialog. Regardless of who it is that makes the audience react, the execution proves to be the key for The Martian‘s entertainment value.
Director: Ridley Scott
Film Length: 141 minutes
Release Date: October 2, 2015
Distributor: 20th Century Fox