Movie Review: The Martian
On a manned mission to Mars in the near future, the Ares 3 mission crew is forced to evacuate the red planet after a storm becomes too strong for their base to handle. While evacuating, a piece of debris strikes astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) and he is killed, forcing his crew to leave his body behind as they leave Mars to begin the multiple month journey back to Earth.
One problem: Mark Watney is alive.
And so begins a space survival story in Ridley Scott’s “The Martian”, based on the novel by Andy Weir. While movies in the past like “Gravity” weren’t deep enough on a character level or “Interstellar”, many claimed, buried itself with its own emotional heavy-handedness, Ridley Scott has come along to show everyone how to make a proper space drama. With excellent performances, humor that keeps everything from becoming too dark and one of the most memorable main characters in recent memory, “The Martian” exceeds on almost every level.
Other than poster star Matt Damon, the cast of the film is full of well-known and critically acclaimed actors and actresses, all of whom do a great job. Chiwetel Ejiofor keeps everything going on at NASA entertaining along with Kristin Wiig, Jeff Daniels and Sean Bean (Who is not dying in a movie for once). They all keep you interested in what is happening on the ground and how they are trying to rescue Watney. It helps create a more realistic scenario, as if something like this could happen. The Ares 3 crew, featuring Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara (Who after “Fantastic Four” has nowhere to go but up), Michael Peña and a few others, all do a great job at conveying the emotions the group goes through after leaving their comrade behind. The group feels like a family, and it adds to the film on an emotional level.
But they all pale in comparison to the man of the hour: Matt Damon. Damon gives one of the best performances of the year. He is alone for 99% of the movie, so he has to find a way to make his screen-time memorable, which he does. Damon brings his sharp wit he is known for and creates entertaining moments whenever the camera is on him. Even if no other actor was in “The Martian”, rest assured Matt Damon would’ve carried this whole movie on his own.
His character, astronaut/botanist Mark Watney, is one of the best written characters in a long time. He’s someone thrown into the worst situation imaginable, but he never loses hope. His humor and spirit help keep the film surprisingly hopeful and fun rather than gloomy and depressing, as a story like this could have been. His dialogue is hilarious, always finding a way to crack a joke to relieve tension, and Damon plays him perfectly.
The direction by Ridley Scott, who is fresh off Exodus: Gods and Kings, one of the worst films of 2014, goes back to his Alien sci-fi roots and shows why he is one of the best in the craft. Mars looks like Mars, it is incredible how they were able to create Mars on Earth, but he found a way to do it. Scott finds a way to create tension in ways you couldn’t think of, like having Watney perform surgery on himself or a crack appearing in a helmet that must be sealed with duct tape, Scott keeps the audience invested throughout the lengthy 141 minute runtime.
Everything about The Martian works. The acting, writing, direction, humor, and even the intricate science of growing potatoes on Mars using Watney’s own feces as fertilizer is impressive to behold. It’s a visually stunning piece of filmmaking that has a much more positive tone than one might expect, and will capture the imagination of people all around the world as they witness this incredible survival story.
Hunter Eitel is a freshman majoring in print journalism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.