The Martian is Ridley Scott's latest science fiction film. A team of astronauts who have landed on Mars prepare to evacuate the planet as a storm threatens to destroy the ship that offers their only way home. Astronaut and botanist Mark Watney gets lost in the storm, and the crew are forced to leave without him. He's presumed dead, but we quickly find out that he's not. The film takes the audience through a process of him trying to survive on Mars by any means necessary.
It's really dense. It's a long film at 141 minutes and a lot happens in that space of time. It feels like some parts were shortened and not explained in order to make the film not run over three hours, which could be perceived as a good or bad thing. Good if you haven't much interest in the science part of science fiction and want to enjoy the story and visuals. Bad if you do have an interest in astronomy. I don't have a huge interest in astronomy and I'm sure the film was as accurate as possible, but I found myself asking questions about why certain things were happening.
And maybe that's okay. It makes the film really accessible to a wide audience. Last year's Interstellar was a very serious science fiction film that needed a lot of attention. The Martian is not like that at all. It offers a wonderful story without taking itself too seriously. There are funny bits, there are sad bits and there are happy bits. And the cast, especially Matt Damon, are really engaging and it's easy to feel the emotions that the characters feel.
The backup cast are extraordinary too though. There is a team of Nasa employees trying to interact with Mark Watney, and their story on Earth develops as the film goes on. The team of Astronauts on the way home also have involvement and we witess their character development too. We see great depth of character with the astronauts as they talk to their families back home and interact with one another. When I was going in, I worried that it would just be one character in one place for the entire film in order to make the audience feel as trapped as the character. This can be effective and memorable, but not particularly enjoyable. It worked well in 127 Hours (2010) and The Man From Earth (2007), but was not something I looked forward to in this film. So I was glad to watch three stories unfold and blend in to one.
The visuals from the scenes on Mars were spectacular. The landscape surrounded his settlement in the form of mountains, and that made the character seem not just alone, but imprisoned. The spacecraft that the astronaut crew travel on is classic Ridley Scott. It has kitchens and living areas that are reminiscent of the spacecraft in Alien. His science fiction films seem to have a motif that living in space becomes normal, and spacecrafts resemble houses. The space centre on Earth also had a lot of atmosphere and intensity.
Ridley Scott has had quite a hit or miss career. He has made Alien, Blade Runner and Gladiator which all received Oscar nominations and won some as well. But he has produced some poor films this century such as Kingdom of Heaven, Robin Hood and Prometheus. From my experience with Ridley Scott films, I feel that he tends to care more about visuals, aesthetics and impressive sets, and doesn't give very much attention to the story and the characters. But Ridley Scott has very few films left to make, and it's brilliant to see him add another great film to his legacy. This film will be remembered as a classic not only for its stunning visuals, but for the compelling story it has to tell.