"The Martian" is Ridley Scott's return to the sci-fi genre. Scott, known for films such as "Blade Runner", "Alien", and "Prometheus", returns to his beloved genre to tell the story of survival on an alien planet. Matt Damon stars as botanist and NASA astronaut, Mark Watney, who finds himself in a bit of a predicament when he realizes his crew has abandoned him on the red planet. Jeff Daniels (Dumb and Dumber, The Newsroom) heads up NASA, while Kristen Wiig (SNL, Bridesmaids) provides tactical press relation advice. Rounding out the ensemble cast is Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Kate Mara (House of Cards), Donald Glover (Community), and Sean Bean (Game of Thrones).
We are immediately introduced to the Aries 3 team, amidst their current Mars mission. As the threat of a storm unveils itself, the crew begin an exit strategy, and ultimately abandon their mission early. While maneuvering their way back to the ship, Mark Watney (Damon), is hit with debris and is launched into the distance. Presumed dead, the Aries crew must abandon Watney and begin their early journey back to earth. Watney, later awakens to a punctured suit and abdomen, and quickly comes to the realization that he is alone. The Martian, is a story of survival; a story of how one would cope in isolation for an extended period time, and in Mark Watney's case, many, many sols (the martian day). The remainder of film is a set of trials and tribulations, as we see both Watney battle the elements of Mars, and NASA combat the issues of feeding Dr. Watney and also bringing him home.
For it's technical aspects, The Martian, is a winner. Beautiful cinematography, utilizing the 'Valley of the Moon', a.k.a. Wadi Rum in Jordan, as the primary setting of Mars. Ridley Scott spent many months of planning with actual NASA scientists to ensure the accuracy of the physics, atmosphere, and many other scientific aspects of the film to ensure it's authenticity. Additionally, the performances of Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, and Donald Glover offer frequent briefs of comic relief from what is otherwise a dramatic adventure of survival and loneliness.
Despite the narrative being predictable, and having the film labelled as a "comedy" at the recent Golden Globes, "The Martian" is a truly enjoyable film. You will be entertained by the leading and supporting roles, engaged with techy bits, and ultimately route for a kind-hearted and witty protagonist.
"The Martian" was released on DVD and Blu-Ray on January 12, 2016.