I read the book The Martian by author Andy Weir a few months ago, and my excitement for the film adaption was through the roof. I stood in line to watch it on opening night and had to sit beside a stranger in the front row (no I did not go alone, my sister was with me. Whatever, I don’t have to explain myself to you) because the theater was so packed.
SPOILER ALERT for my review, IT WAS WORTH IT.
There was a lot of reason for my excitement.
1. Read the book. Loved the book.
2. Set in space. I’m a SciFi fan (as evidenced by my 5 part review of the X-Files), although it’s only slight fiction.
3. THE CAST
4. Ridley Scott directed it
The novel reads like a laymen’s science text book with profanities sprinkled in. The film stayed true to that idea with a little Hollywood magic sprinkled in. Matt Damon said it was meant to be a “love letter to science”. I promised myself that this review wouldn’t be a movie vs. book argument, so I’ll move on.
The Martian is set in space, but it’s more realistic with a greater attention to detail than any movie since Apollo 13 (1995). Although I did prefer the visuals in Gravity (2013), I’m aware that there were a few scientific inconsistencies in that film. As a result, I would describe the genre as more “science” than “fiction”.
I’m a half decent writer, I used to do some acting, and I love the idea of directing, but I’ve always believed that my real talent is in casting. It’s almost the only thing that I think about when I read a book. This is a blessing and a curse. Well, just a curse really because I highly doubt I’ll ever actually be a casting director. 9 times out of 10 I’m supremely disappointed by at least one actor in the movie. I am happy to report, though, that this movie was PERFECTLY cast. Not a single actor was lacking or out of place. After watching the trailer the first time, I went through a period of uncertainty about the Kristen Wiig choice, but I am happy to report that aside from Matt Damon, she may have been the highlight of the film for me.
Although her screen time was somewhat brief (less than it was in the book) she brought wit and intelligence and heart to her character Annie Montrose, NASA's PR Director.
She wasn’t the only actor that surprised me. Donald Glover (Childish Gambino) of Community fame was also great in his role as a socially awkward genius Rich Purnell.
I was happy to see Kate Mara in the film as well, what with the disaster known as The Fantatic 4 not yet behind her. I won’t go into that, but I would like to state for the record that I liked that movie and thought that she was adequate as The Invisible Woman. Although a very dark part of me was happy when Kevin Spacey pushed her in front of a train in House of Cards, it wasn’t because she’s a bad actress, it was because I hated her character which is a testament to her talent. She didn’t have many lines, but still came across as endearing here.
It is my expressed opinion that Jessica Chastain is one of the greatest actresses of our time. Anyone who can go from The Help (2012) to Zero Dark Thirty (2013) without missing a beat should be rewarded with all the parts ever. OK, so that’s an overstatement. But she really is quite the scene stealer. As great as this movie is, it’s inevitable that there was going to be some cheesy dialogue (space odysseys and survival stories have a tendency to include that). Unfortunately for Chastain, all of that dialogue seemed to land on her. She executed it with poise and a commanding presence though. Although, it's possible that the dialogue was very realistic. It makes since that the Commander of a manned mission to Mars would probably take themselves and their job very seriously, especially under the circumstances that Commander Lewis is subject to. She was the first character in the book that I associated with a certain actor, and reading her I immediately thought of Chastain. She is Commander Lewis.
I would be here all night if I went in to each individual performance because they really were all quite impressive, so I’m going to skip to the guy putting the people in the theater seats: Matt Damon. I’ve been a Damon fan since seeing Good Will Hunting in the 5th grade. Like Chastain, he is one of the better actors of our time and I thought his performance here was electric. Some people were concerned that teaming he and Chastain up and sending them to space so soon after Interstellar was a mistake, but I doubt that anyone was thinking about Matthew McConaughey after they saw this movie. Damon was completely captivating as Astronaut Mark Watney, a man who’s marooned on Mars after his crew is forced to evacuate the planet. It truly is one of the better performances of his decorated career.
I give the film a solid 9/10. I’m not giving it a perfect score because my opinion was tainted by having read the book first. Definitely a must see and a lot more visually rewarding in theaters. Bottom line? The Martian is a BLAST! (Pun very much intended).