Now I’m sure there will be some of you more arrogant movie-goers out there who will say a film based around space should be easy to make. I mean it’s just space right, its nothing? Wrong. Think about it; space, an infinite scope beyond anything we can fully comprehend, never mind bring to life on screen. So when a film tells a story of a man left on a desolate red planet, don’t let it pass by – especially when it’s as outstanding as The Martian.
The Martian, directed by Ridley Scott, tells the story of Mark Watney, an astronaut part of a manned Mars mission. When a storm hits on Mars, Watney gets hit by debris, and as a result gets left behind following his team’s departure from the planet. From here, the mission to contact earth begins.
Ridley Scott hasn’t had the best 5 years in terms of films. For example, he did have the excellent Prometheus in 2012, but when put with the others he’s done you forget his skills as a director. Yes I’m talking about the god awful film The Counsellor and the painfully mediocre Exodus: Gods and Kings.
He has certainly redeemed himself here though. It takes quite a craft to turn a complex idea into a remarkable film. I smiled throughout a lot of the movie, and that’s certainly more than I can say for his previous movies.
The world Scott created is absolutely stunning. The beautiful, red landscape which the film opens with is enough to pique our curiosity, which is an achievement in itself considering the familiarity of Mars from other media.
The casting was absolutely spot on. Before I get on to the lead, I’d like to note the many other actors who made this film as good as it is. Jeff Daniels shined in his serious role, which I didn’t really doubt considering his work in The Newsroom. Chiwetel Ejiofor too was brilliant, and other supporting characters like Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Sean Bean, and even Kristen Wiig.
There was a slight problem with the cast during the film however. Whilst all their performances were great, the time taken during the film to help us fully understand them took us away from Watney, and the general momentum. Don’t get me wrong though, this is only a slight issue – the film has pretty consistent pacing throughout which is a major plus.
The lead deserves the most praise. In one of his finest roles to date, Matt Damon brings so much life to a character that you’d really expect to be brutally unhappy. By injecting humour and wit into his performance, whilst still showing us a more emotional side, he is what really made this film.
You’ll notice when watching that Scott doesn’t try and insult our intelligence. There is a lot of science within the movie, that despite being incomprehensible by most people, is still one of the best aspects of the movie – it’s a brainy, knowledge packed feature. Also one of my favourite things about the film was the fact it brought more of a light-hearted tone not seen in previous space related films. Gravity and Interstellar, whilst being different stories, done the job of being serious incredibly well. I’m happy The Martian went for its own tone, rather than hopping on the success of previous jaunts into space.
My one major criticism is however that the film did struggle to reach certain emotional depths. For example in Interstellar there were a couple of heartbreaking moments that really tugged on the heartstrings, and Gravity too brought emotional depth for a film that really only starred two people. If The Martian had tried to go a bit deeper with its emotional complexity, perhaps draw a few tears, it would have been near enough perfect.
I’m so damn pleased that Ridley Scott has managed to pull it out the bag with this one. A story like this was risky, as it may not sound like anything particularly new or fresh. Interstellar was more ambitious, but The Martian played it safer and blew past all expectations. It has turned out to be one of the finest films of the year, and one that many people will love.
Rating: Pure Dynamite
Check out the trailer below:
What do you think? Was The Martian out of this world? Or was it dire? Let me know in the comments below, or send a tweet using the widgets to @frew_cameron.