"Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship..." Wait, that's the wrong space exploration franchise. Ah, yes, today I review, The Martian, Ridley Scott's latest feature film starring Matt Damon, Sebastian Stan, Sean Bean, and many other exceptional actors that is based on the bestselling novel of the same name.
Space exploration, as a story concept, fascinates me. And yet only a few stories manage to make realistic space travel entertaining. Does The Martian reach the heights of the other stories in the genre, such as Space Brothers?
If you are lucky enough to have not seen The Martian’s trailer, avoid it completely. Thankfully, my brother watched it first, and warned me, so I never saw it. Unfortunately, that trailer spoilers a great part in the movie that should have never seen shown in a trailer.
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Genre: Sci-Fi, Drama, Survival
Release Date: October 2, 2015
Running Time: 141 minutes
MMPA rating: PG-13
The Good: MAcGyver meets space science, Pitch perfect tone, Great sense of humor, All-star cast nails it, "Science the s--t out of this," References to pop culture creates a sense of realism, Likable cast of characters, Geeky references, Grounded and realism characters, Memorable quotes, Realistic technology, Completely invested me in the characters and consequences,
The Bad: One special effects scene at the end is a little off (in 2D),
On the flipside, half of the film takes place on earth as NASA's scientists and engineers work to get Mark back. Switching between both settings keeps the pace moving, and while the film is not exactly an exhilarating ride, it is a well paced and entertaining journey from start to finish. And thanks to the brilliantly lighthearted tone and humor sprinkled throughout, the movie never drags, despite the 141 minute runtime.
Thanks to the strong, The Martian made me care about what was happening. Each time Mark figured something out, it was a genuine cheer worthy moment, and when it all hits the fan, I wondered how he could possibly get out of situation! The film is an emotional rollercoaster without feeling cheap or sappy.
Lastly, according to scientists at NASA, The Martian is heavily grounded in real science, and despite having little knowledge myself on the subject, The Martian’s attention to detail is apparent because it feels so real. All of Mark’s actions are logical and smart. He is a well trained astronaut and he acts like one.
Characterization: 9.2/10- Mark Watney is the protagonist of the film, and what makes him a great character is that he is just a typical guy in a bad situation. If you watched certain movies, you might think that NASA astronauts are ill prepared for the potential of death and isolation. However, in reality, the candidates are carefully chosen and put through rigorous physical and psychological tests to determine if he or she is fit for space travel, and Mark Watney acts exactly what you would expect from a well trained and prepared astronaut. And unlike 95% of survival movies, particularly space related ones, the protagonist's sole motivation to live not the typical sappy, albeit sometimes effective, reason like a daughter or girlfriend. Instead, he is driven by the will to live, and yet that makes him incredibly relatable and likable. He makes jokes, references to pop culture, and is a generally good guy. In fact, all of the characters in the film seem like real people in the real world. No one is driven by a dark past or some other convoluted reason.
Direction: 8.5/10- Ridley Scott is an exceptional director; one of the best in film history, and he does not disappoint with The Martian. With that said, The Martian does not look particularly special. Everything looks excellent all the time, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with the direction. And yet, it does not do anything especially noteworthy, although, is that really a flaw?
Acting: 9.8/10- The Martian's cast is insane! Matt Damon is the perfect "everyman" as Mark Watney. He gives the character an identifiable charm that makes it impossible to not like him. If there is a weak link, it could only be Jessica Chastain, because some of her dialogue delivery is a little stiff. Otherwise, every single cast member from Chiwetel Ejiofor to Sean Bean is as good as it gets.
Special effects: 9.2/10- Mars looks excellent! Never for a moment do you question that he is actually on Mars. The set and costume design for the futuristic spacesuits and technology is grounded in reality and practicality. My only minor complaint is that one scene towards the end looks a little off. Otherwise, great job all around.
Soundtrack: 8.0/10- Harry Gregson-Williams delivers an all around solid score. It is rarely noticeable while watching the film, but it contains several strong tracks while listening to it on its own. The use of 70s disco music is always an added bonus because that was hysterical!
Humor: 8.7/10- Now this is where The Martian absolutely killed it because its sense of humor creates the perfect tone. In real life, people make jokes in tense and serious situations; that is how we cope. And that is exactly what the dialogue captures. Sprinkled brilliantly throughout are quick lines that make you laugh, even if the situation is dire. The constant bits of realistic humor keep the pace from dragging.
Entertainment Value: 9.8/10- The Martian presses all the right buttons for me. Typically, these types of movies are a one-time experience, and yet I want to rent The Martian on Blu-Ray and watch it again!
Overall: 9.1/10- The Martian does everything right. From the relatable characters to MAcGyver-esque problem solving, The Martian is exactly what a space survival drama should be! It takes a concept that could be slow and monotonous and makes it feel real, without being depressing. The Martian is one of the best sci-fi films in recent years, and if you have any interest in space or science, you would be doing yourself a disservice by missing out on this exceptional film.
Closing comments: If The Martian is not nominated for several Oscars, including Best Picture, the Academy is insane! Granted, we know that already....
Recommended for: Space fans, Popular Science subscribers, Sci-fi fans Matt Damon fans, Ridley Scott fans, Drama fans, Anyone that wants to watch a great movie, Space Brothers fans, Fans of any cast members
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