During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney survives and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring “The Martian” home, while his crew-mates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible, rescue mission.
The film is based on a best-selling novel, and directed by the one and only Ridley Scott, The Martian features a star studded cast that includes Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Donald Glover.
Long ago when I saw the trailer, I saw Matt Damon and Chiwetel Ejiofor, and I was immediately interested. To add to that, I saw the direction was coming from Ridley Scott, who as some of you know, has owned multiple pages on our site in the “film review” category. For a film with a storyline that rings of interest, I found very few dry moments where you could think, “This is boring.” Not so much that it slowed down to a halt, but just not as interesting as the film as a whole. One thing I thought was great, was the accuracy of the science. Behind the execution of the multiple experiments that took place was a chemistry lesson at almost every turn. All too often when Hollywood mixes with science, we’re overrun with Hollywood (think San Andreas). But when Neil deGrasse Tyson compliments you on your science, you know you did an excellent job.
Mark Watney is a one-stop shop of an astronaut. A man who cannot only navigate space, but has a steady hand in engineering, extremely resourceful, knowledgeable in the laws of physics, a mathematician, and most importantly, a botanist. In one scene (the most notable from the trailer) he’s faced with the task of growing food, on Mars, in his spaceship. My memories of organic/inorganic chemistry were in full swing as I watched his attempts at making water out of hydrogen, a small flame, tubes, and other materials needed to divert certain chemicals and salvage others. It was really interesting to see.
Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) plays the hardline director of NASA and can be seen as the antagonist in the group as his aggressive and “by the book” views are frowned upon by most. More often than not, the group weren’t congruent on big decisions but he gave the final say on everything. Because Watney was so far, everything had to be done quickly and corners had to be cut to assure a reasonable timeline to get supplies to Watney and bring him home. At one point Teddy even questioned if bringing him back was a good idea (and after they discovered his survival, waited months to alert the crew that left him behind).
I give The Martian an 8.5 out of 10. The barrage of brand-name actors was unnecessary but taken seriously enough that you wouldn’t consider the film a spoof. The science was captivating and accurate, and Matt Damon conducting V-log entries on his GoPro are pretty entertaining. I wasn’t impressed with the ending (it seemed rushed) but it’s not enough to totally affect your mood. After this film I’m yelling justice for Chiwetel, in hopes that he’ll get acknowledgment for his performance in a supporting role. Far too many times I’ve seen him overlooked during awards season so I hope he’ll get the recognition he deserves. I’ll also give a nod to Donald Glover for his short but fair performance he gave in this film.