If you've seen the stirring trailer for The Martian, Ridley Scott's upcoming return to outer space, you probably noticed that Matt Damon is once again deserted on a desolate planet with the odds stacked against him. This premise has drawn some comparisons to an earlier space epic of his, Interstellar, and while on the surface the two films appear similar, Damon himself has recently cleared up any questions of overlap.
In an interview with Yahoo, the veteran actor reveals that he had the same concerns as many fans, and he brought up the comparison to the director:
I’d never met Ridley [Scott], not even in passing. I went in to meet him, then I signed on really quickly. I went in and I said, I really love this script, but my only hesitation is I’ve just done ‘Interstellar’, in which I played a dude stranded on a planet, it might be weird if, after taking a year and a half off, I played another dude stranded on a planet.
It's an understandable response for an actor to try and avoid typecasting, especially with the movies coming out so close together, but Ridley Scott was quick to put his mind at ease.
Too great to turn down
After Damon took the time to explain the basics of Interstellar to Scott, the decision was an easy one:
I explained ‘Interstellar’ to him, and he said ‘The movies are totally f***ing different, this is going to be f***ing fun. Let’s do this!’ He was so infectious, I couldn’t really say no to him.
So, for anyone feeling like The Martian would be a rehash of something we've already seen, worry not! Here are a couple of the major reasons that The Martian will be totally distinct from Interstellar in the best possible way.
A solitary survival story
One aspect of what distinguishes The Martian from Interstellar is also what makes it original among most movies about Mars exploration. Ridley Scott's adaptation of Andy Weir's novel focuses on one man's battle to survive a solitary struggle in a wasteland. Based on this description from Damon, the central story sounds more like Cast Away than anything else.
One of the biggest differences is it’s primarily me on my own for a lot of it. That’s the big challenge. It has all the bells and whistles of NASA and the b-side of the story, the rest of the world trying to get this guy back. But the other half of the movie is me and Ridley on Mars, so that part’s different. You start there, there’s that mystery - what happened, how did he get left there? The mission part is the B-side, trying to figure out how to get back. So, structurally it’s different to anyone that’s ever been done.
Based on this feedback, The Martian will probably be more of a character study and feature the struggle to overcome the odds and find a way home.
A grounded tale in outer space
Another difference based on early accounts is how The Martian creates gritty, grounded, and altogether immersive experience that is more about one man's survival than an entire species'. It foregrounds the science of staying alive (Damon's character Mark Watney needs to learn how to grow crops on Mars—ON MARS, PEOPLE!) as opposed to the psychological struggles of its characters.
There's also the necessary element of humanity's need to laugh at itself mixed in with this resilience. When Mark Watney sits down to achieve impossible survival, he proclaims, "I'm going to have to science the sh*t out of this!" Yes, you certainly are, and I'm going to be right there watching you do it.
The Martian lands in theaters on October 2, 2015 in jaw-dropping 3D. It sounds like it'll be worth the trip.