I just recently got back from watching The Martian, starring Matt Damon and directed by Ridley Scott. While there have been quite a few space-based thrillers over the past couple years, such as Gravity and Interstellar, this film was far from a copycat. It was by no means a perfect movie, but it was extremely fun and had me on the edge of my seat the from start to finish. I am going to go through the good, the not-so-good, and the funny, without giving away any spoilers.
Plot Overview: NASA mission, Hermes, is on Mars collecting data when a storm hits and the crew is forced to abort. Botanist, Mark Watney (Matt Damon), is struck by debris and his crew makes the tough decision to leave without him as he is presumed dead. He survives (obviously, it wouldn't be a very long movie otherwise) and has to find a way to live alone on an inhabitable planet until help arrives.
-The visuals in this movie were absolutely incredible. While the story was mainly based on Mars, rather than the whole galaxy as Interstellar was, the views were far from repetitive. There are tons of overhead camera pans, Lord of the Rings style, to show off the landscape, and they are absolutely beautiful. Obviously it isn't actually filmed on Mars, but you wouldn't know that just from the movie.
-Matt Damon's performance is spot on. He is acting alone for the majority of the movie, which is always tough to do, but he does a fantastic job reflecting the psychological decay of a man stranded and isolated. The rest of the cast also does a remarkable job, especially Jeff Daniels and Kristen Wiig, who are asked to shed their comedic personas to play much more dramatic roles and do so brilliantly.
-In terms of the plot, I was gripped the whole movie. You can pretty much guess the ending heading in, but that fact did nothing to hurt the movie in any way. There are twists and turns, and the climactic ending had me on the edge of my seat!
-The cliches. Oh my Lord, there are a lot of them. Here are just a few:
- "This task is impossible to do faster. But you can do it in less time because plot."
- The man who is looking out for the greater good by making logical, not emotional decisions is painted as the bad guy, even though he's probably right.
- Male character + Female character = random, forced love interests
- "This'll work...unless something goes wrong" - something immediately goes wrong
- Logic - "That's crazy, it'll never work!" Plot convenience - "Shhhhhh, it'll work, it's the protagonist."
-The pacing. I know the movie takes place over multiple years, so skipping large periods of time is necessary, but some of the more interesting parts are glossed over for the sake of movie run time. While the movie needed to stay a reasonable length, they definitely could have expounded on a few parts, most notably a trip he takes that supposedly takes 50 days. Not many details of the trip are really given, even though a big deal was made of the trip earlier in the movie.
-This movie is very self aware, and openly mocks the 2 "f-words" per PG-13 movie limit multiple times. Watney cracks multiple jokes about his situation that are quite frankly hilarious, making fun of himself and the absurdity of his predicament.
-A very serious plot is sprinkled with just enough humor spread throughout to contrast the immense tension, and helps add to the humanity of the characters. This is evident especially when Watney and the other crew members tease each other numerous times.
While The Martian suffers from some of the same problems that other films of the genre have encountered, it is a remarkable story full of suspense, humor, and triumph. There are plenty of human elements that we all can relate to: the struggle for survival, friendship and devotion, and the curiosity to explore new worlds even at great danger. It is an inspiring, entertaining tale, and you should all go and see it!!
See The Martian in theaters now.