By Scott M. Waldman
Space…the place Matt Damon has been to twice (2014, 2015) and both times he has required a rescue mission where he has either went insane in completing his mission (Interstellar) or brought the laughs to the isolation on display. The setting on Mars seems familiar; like a trip to the desert filled with towering rock formations, endless horizons, and the occasional deadly sand storm, but for Mark Watney (Damon) it is anything but. The Martian is a struggle for survival among near unknown/impossible odds. Stranded on a planet where nothing grows, no life is present, and communication to your home world is millions of miles away. With director Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator) at the helm, this sci-fi/comedy feature makes isolation among the stars seem like a fun time (besides the fact that you need to be as intelligent a scientist/botanist/survivalist as Watney to do so).
Mark Watney is stranded on Mars due to being presumed dead during an emergency evacuation with his team, made up of a stellar cast (Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Kata Mara), leaving him behind. Stranded and alone on the uninhabited fourth planet from the sun, Watney must put all of his survival skills and botany powers together to survive until another team is sent to Mars on a timetable that is constant changing due to human error leaving the audience on the edge of their seats at every moment. Watney faces challenge after challenge while isolated with limited food and water and accomplishes the impossible by using a huge load-of-science to grow food, contact Earth, and plan a rescue mission while working in a climate that is trying to kill him at every turn. Can he do it? With his many superpowers he can (no he isn’t Robin, although he still is Jason Bourne).
The overall plot of the film is predictable; it is the process of building up to the climax that is the “Iron-man” moment that makes it all worth it. The film seems extremely serious, but in all reality, it’s as hysterical as the story that it is based off of by Andy Weir. The entire cast is having fun on this film and all of the jokes that are thrown around including the disco gag keep the film full of life on a planet without life. Damon is the one with the most jokes in the end (what isolation does), and he steals the show as he struggles to eat potatoes and turn the NASA forums into what seems like a Reddit page. NASA itself is well represented with another great ensemble made up of Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, and Sean Bean (there is a Lord of the Rings reference in this film which he recognizes). Science is even given a fair share of showcasing as Damon and team determine ways to show the audience how possible it is to survive on Mars if you have the funding and intellect to know how it works.
This may be Ridley Scott’s comeback film; it displays an unforgettable adventure filled with memorable characters, an unexplored backdrop, and a faithful adaptation of the 2011 novel. The Martian had more intelligent scientists than that of the film Prometheus (2012) although the only flaw in the film would be Jeff Daniel’s reasoning for most of the choices he made (he more or less wanted Damon to die up there during his earlier scenes). Other than Daniels trying to kill Private Ryan, The Martian is an intelligent survivalist flick done right and deserves a 9 out of 10 for a fantastic ensemble, an inescapable sci-fi atmosphere, and comedy for those not interested in the whole science aspect and want to see Jason Bourne lose his mind over Chastain’s taste in music. When Ridley Scott won the Golden Globe for “Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical” he was weirded out by having his film be labeled a ‘Comedy’ which it rightfully deserves. Hopefully with this success under his belt, Ridley can bring the same sense to his next Alien flick and Prometheus sequel (yes, there are two of them for some reason). The Martian is also a sign to keep Matt Damon safe and on-world so we don’t have to throw another billion dollars to rescue him, although he is nominated for an Academy Award for doing it. There should probably be a foundation made to pay the bill; maybe the Academy will help? Nope, DiCaprio will get that honor this year (The Revenant).