First things first. There has been a huge delay since my last blog, apologies for this as my laptops been out of order. I’m eager to the wheels rolling on this blog again.
Andy Weir’s novel The Martian is the basis (funnily enough) of Ridley Scott’s newest venture. In parts, I loved the book, as the Sol entries from Mark Watney were possibly some of the funniest chapters I have read in a long time, whilst at the same time being the most intriguing with the Robinson Crusoe-esque endeavours that Mark Watney found himself in. The biggest issue with the book were the slower chapters containing NASA, and I thought this was going to be the biggest problem that Ridley Scott faced when taking this story onto film.
He did it. Superbly.
I had my apprehensions about this film when it was first announced, maybe because I had just finished the book and loved it, but also because I wasn’t crazy about Ridley Scott’s last work Exodus: Gods and Kings and I wasn’t impressed with Matt Damon’s Dr Mann in Interstellar. This was all washed away within the first five minutes of the film as we join the Ares 3 crew on the big red planet carrying out their operations and tasks. Ridley Scott dove us straight into the vast expanse of the planet with awe-inspiring scenes (but also gave a sense of isolation during later scenes with Watney by himself) and the chemistry between the crew felt genuine, which I find it is rare in film with such a large array of actors and actresses.
The Ares 3 has to abandon their mission as an upgraded storm begins to envelope the site, but during their emergency evacuation Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is struck by debris and sent flying. He is presumed dead, much to the dismay of Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) and the five remaining members head home. Mark Watney survives and begins to (and I quote) ‘Science the shit out of’ his situation.
As he is presumed dead, NASA are surprised to see things around the Hab moving. They realise that Watney is still alive which counts on Annie Montrose (Kristen Wiig) and Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) retracting their press conference about a dead astronaut. NASA begin a contingency plan to try and save Mark Watney, before he dies of starvation. A short while into the film, Watney and NASA then establish communications between the two, and then come up with the plan to get to the Ares 4 site to be rescued.
With the all assemble of actors and actresses, my initial impression was that it was going to be a hoard and messy for screen time, however, Scott directed everyone superbly whilst making sure the main star was still Matt Damon. And that is what he was, the focal point to this film. My opinion on Damon has been very up and down recently, but The Martian is one of his finer films recently. Supported fantastically by the other cast members, especially the stone-faced Jeff Daniels as Teddy Sanders.
Mark Watney’s cocky, arrogant and witty attitude was something that shone through in the book and I initally thought this might be difficult to convey onto the silver screen, however, Matt Damon acted this out perfectly and even added to it. The distaste for Commander Lewis’ disco music to the big ‘I am’ with senior Botanists that he managed to cultivate potatoes on a planet where nothing grows. This made for the witty, arrogant persona that Mark Watney’s character is remembered in the book for. But Damon and Scott even added the emotional side to this character by dressing up his message to Lewis about his parents, and other things that I shall not being discussing due to a hint of spoilers involved in them.
(A hint of spoilers may be present here)
My hat goes off to Ridley Scott as well due to the ending. Even though I knew what was going to happen, Scott still made it the tense, edge-of-your-seat ride that people go to the cinema to watch. The climatic scene was incredibly well directed and literally found myself tensing as the scene played out. It was a joy to watch unfold.
If I was to have a problem with this film. It’s a very small tidbit. Purely because I’ve read the book, the depth that Andy Weir went into was vast and brilliant. Now for obvious reasons Scott didn’t have this luxury, however some key parts of the story were left out, for example the reason for drilling holes into the top of the rover was a mystery without having read the book. And the complex routine for preparing his trip to the Ares 4 mission site.
That is me nitpicking though. Other than that the film was thoroughly entertaining and was paced well throughout, especially the transition scenes between Watney and NASA. The tense scenes, although few and far between, were replaced by the clever wit of Watney and the scenes in NASA, including Rich Purnell (Donald Glover) acting out his manoeuvre and Sean Bean’s Mitch Henderson explaining about the Council of Elrond (what an absolutely glorious scene this was for Lord of the Rings fans). The music was excellent with the disco vibe ringing through, as much as Watney hated it.
Of course, I could go on and on about my love for this film, because I cannot remember the last time I went to the cinema and enjoyed seeing a film this much. The supporting cast was spectacular, from Jeff Daniels, to Kate Mara and Aksel Hennie, to Donald Glover and Benedict Wong. As far as I am aware I don’t think there was a weak performance. And of course Ridley Scott’s work to create these vast expanses of Mars was just mesmerising and was fantastic to watch unfold on the screen.
I really, really, really enjoyed this film.