The Martian (2015)

martian_2015_poster
The Martian (2015)
  • Time: 130 min
  • Genre: Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi
  • Director: Ridley Scott
  • Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Chiwetel Ejiofor

Storyline:

During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived 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 crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible, rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney’s safe return. Based on a best-selling novel.

7 reviews

  • The Martian is director Ridley Scott’s rendition of a workplace comedy. It might be odd to describe it as such, but not entirely inaccurate. Yes, it is a science fiction survival tale but that survival is predicated on one man’s ability to stay alive as teams are gathered, managed, and assigned to meet the ultimate deadline. As head of NASA Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) succinctly puts it, “Mark dies if you don’t [do your best].”

    Mark is astronaut Mark Watney, a botanist and chemical engineer who is part of the Ares III crew that are in the midst of their mission to explore the Red Planet. A sudden storm forces the crew’s commander (Jessica Chastain) to order an evacuation. Watney, injured in the hubbub, is presumed dead and left behind. For Sanders, it’s a PR nightmare, another reason for the government to re-assess the space program and cut funding. Venkat Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor), the man in charge of Mars missions, pushes for another mission, convincing Sanders that they can frame it to the public as a retrieval assignment to bring Watney’s body back home for burial.

    Of course, as audiences are already aware at this point, the body in question is very much alive. Watney is played by Matt Damon who, right around this time last year, portrayed another stranded astronaut in Christopher Nolan’s space opera Interstellar, which also starred Chastain. Damon also headlined Gus Van Sant’s Gerry, a practically wordless wander of two hikers lost in the wilderness. Damon is an enormously charismatic actor whose charisma is derived from his relatability, and he is expert at riveting the audience’s attention. Damon’s Watney is as resourceful as his Interstellar character and far more talkative than in Gerry. Though Watney’s plight is as Robinson Crusoe as Tom Hanks’ predicament in Cast Away and Sandra Bullock’s one-woman show in Gravity, Watney and The Martian are of a completely different ilk.

    Familiar though the narrative may be, Watney’s sardonic self-deprecation, intelligence, and cockiness (“Technically, I’ve colonised Mars. In your face, Neil Armstrong.”) feel especially unusual. Humour has always been present in one form or another in this genre, but usually sparingly with the protagonist and primarily with the supporting cast. More importantly, such levity is relegated to the background as the dramatics bask in the spotlight. Not in The Martian. Drew Goddard, working from Andrew Weir’s novel, understands that the dramatics of the tale don’t need to be trussed up or fawned over. With Damon in the lead, audiences are already invested in and rooting for the character. The spotlight is coming up with solutions for the procession of problems – ranging from extending his water supply and growing food on a planet where plants do not grow to the more complicated calculations of communicating with antiquated equipment and calibrating his speed as he floats through space in the hopes of reaching his rescuers – that beset Watney and the people working to save him.

    The thrill and laughter derive from Watney’s ingenuity, Sanders’ phlegmatic but effective command, and the teamwork of the various groups as they race to create a viable rescue plan. Teamwork is the driving force of The Martian. Watney may have the MacGyver-like skills to sustain himself for a limited period of time, but he’s greatly assisted by the teams at NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The latter, headed up by Bruce Ng (Benedict Wong), can barely withstand the ever-shifting specifications and escalated deadlines. If the first half of the film is devoted to Watney’s cunning and grit, then the second half pays tribute to the talented minds who come together to execute solutions that increase in audacity (one plan is likened to being blasted into space in a convertible).

    It is easy to forget that it is Ridley Scott at the helm given the lightheartedness of The Martian. There are no aliens threatening to puncture the flesh from within – though a Ridley Scott film set in space would not be complete without some scene of skin being pierced – in fact, there are no villains. Sanders come close, but such steeliness is necessary to make the tough calls that are part and parcel of his position. The uncommon optimism displayed by Scott is a welcome one. The Martian teems with an energy and sprightliness that belies the film’s lengthy running time.

    There is a purity of purpose here that has been lacking in Scott’s recent efforts and, when Watney declares that he is “really looking forward to not dying,” one can’t help but extrapolate that onto the seventy-seven year old Scott who proves himself as artful a survivalist as Watney.

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  • (Rating: ☆☆☆½ out of 4)

    This film is highly recommended.

    In brief: Ridley Scott’s epic film may not be the most original of tales but it is done with style and technical expertise making it gripping drama.

    GRADE: B+

    Our obsession with Mars and space exploration has been instilled with us for decades, particularly starting in the mid-fifties. From Marvin the Martian to War of the Worlds, from Total Recall to Forbidden Planet, from Robinson Crusoe on Mars to Lost in Space, we are eager to travel the unchartered frontier to seek new thrills. Now we can add to the roster of space adventure saga yet another entry, The Martian.

    A man lost in space, left to his own wiles to live in space. Such is the less than original premise of Ridley Scott’s The Martian, a solid and engrossing tale of survival. In this outer space epic, there are no aliens preying on human flesh or starship battle wars. The dangers in space exploration are evident and shown as real and probable. This is the type of film that computer nerds and sci-fi geeks will love, most moviegoers will greatly admire, and some may get a little bored with the film’s lack of action sequences until the film’s concluding rescue mission.

    The Martian is more of the well crafted filmmaking we have come to expect from Ridley Scott. Scott is a talented and astute director and his detailed vision and style is in every frame. In this sci-fi film, he emphasizes the science more than the fiction. He seems a tad preoccupied about the film’s authenticity with its scientific concepts and mathematical theories. The Martian takes its subject seriously and celebrates human ingenuity and man’s inner courage against all odds with a sincere and honest depiction of one man forced to come to terms with his own mortality.

    That man, namely Mark Watney, is played by Matt Damon. Left behind after being caught in a storm, the astronaut is now left to his own devices. Damon plays his character very well. He becomes the center of the film as he narrates his dilemma via a video log as he counts the days and his rations. His dialog serves as exposition and very clearly explains to the moviegoing audience his intriguing thought process. The actor brings his boyish charm and likability to his role. His performance helps to ground the film and gives the audience a hero to root for. There is also fine support from Jessica Chastain as the ship’s commander and Chiwetzel Ejiofor as Watney’s NASA connection to Earth.

    The film is technically superb. Its visual effects are impressive throughout and the photography by Dariusz Wolski excels on the three dimensional elements very effectively, with its wide depth of field when showing objects and astronauts floating effortlessly in space or panning the vast panoramic views of the red planet. But the script by Drew Goddard, based on Andy Weir’s best seller, is less effective with its stock one dimensional supporting characters that rarely register any sense of reality or personality (the closely-bonded crew, the professionally trained personnel at NASA, the young obsessed genius physicist, etc.)  While the film is very well cast (Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, and Kristen Wiig), the actors are not given much to do dramatically than look stern or stoic. It’s all a kinda Saving Private Damon’s scenario, but it is gripping entertainment nevertheless.

    The Martian is an intelligence and imaginative retelling of one man’s will to live, well worth the trek.

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  • Matt Damon is no stranger to roles in which he is in the position of being saved. It happened in Saving Private Ryan and happened once again in Interstellar. Now, are you surprised that Damon finds his character once again in the position of needing to be saved? No, you shouldn’t. Damon has proved himself as an action star and in The Martian, Damon sets himself up to be the actor to call when you need someone to be in the position of being saved.

    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 has survived 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 crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney’s safe return.

    It does not take long for one’s interest to peak when watching Ridley Scott’s The Martian. The beautiful visuals of the red barren landscape of this Martian planet will have your curiosity scrambling. You start to get comfortable in your seat in the theater as you prepare for this outer space trip and the best part; the set up is nice and quick.

    Within 30 minutes, Matt Damon’s Mark Watney is the only astronaut left on Mars and NASA has already announced him dead. Luckily for Watney, he is not indeed dead but luck is not fully on his side as he is expected to survive on a planet where life does not exist. At this point, Scott put the complete film on the back of Damon and the same astronaut who is expected to survive on Mars, is able to bring a movie to life.

    Just like growing life on Mars is no easy job so is Damon’s job as Watney. Majority of Damon’s scene are by his lonesome, meaning he has no one to feed off but himself. What helps this process is that Watney has to “science the shit” out of Mars and everything he does feels like a real scientific move. When one is abandon, directors and writers resort to the abandon making logs of their daily lives. This is usually done so the person does not go crazy or it is too late and they are crazy. For Watney, he uses logs to record his plans and the results. Now I am no expert in science and scientists around the globe most likely will point out all the scientific flaws within the films but the average moviegoer does not care about all that. As long as we feel it is real then we are pleased and moviegoers will be pleased.

    As for the secondary members of the cast, I could do without them. Am I saying that Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Donald Glover make the film weaker? No, they are all great actors and they a lot of emotional distress to the film. But do not make the same mistake director Scott and writer Drew Goddard did is forget that Damon is the true star of the film. It takes a lot of people to bring back Watney back to Earth and there are several scenes that focus on the individuals who are trying to make it happen. During those moments, the film drags and you start wanting to be back stranded on Mars with Watney.

    There is a lot to love about The Martian despite the very little flaws the film contains. If you are a lover of logic or emotions within a film then you will be truly entertained as the film is filled with both. The Martian is truly a special film and by far Matt Damon at his best.

  • 2015’s The Martian (my latest review) is different from any film Ridley Scott has ever done. Yeah it’s science fiction and all but you won’t see aliens swallowing up Harry Dean Stanton whole, you won’t see Harrison Ford retiring any replicants, and Russell Crowe ain’t cutting off people’s heads while yelling, “are you entertained!” (oops, wrong genre). No this is probably Scott’s first foray into feel good territory, a sort of channeling within his inner, fantasy geek (Bill Nye and characters on The Big Bang Theory would be mighty proud). With “Martian”, you gotta think All Is Lost in outer space (ha ha, get it), Cast Away on a planet millions of miles from Earth, and fictional splendor in the form of Apollo 13 (with added humor that sometimes deflates dramatic momentum). Matt Damon in the lead role, gives us an effectual, Hanks-ian performance. He even loses wait in the flick’s third act to make it look legit.

    Featuring a sun-drenched, bleached look (that’s Ridley for ya), title cards when various troupers are introduced (I remember seeing this in Scorsese’s The Aviator), plenty of bubble gum, seventies soundtrack hits, and dialogue that doesn’t seem as clunky as was featured in last year’s Interstellar (Matt Damon was also a stranded space cadet in that monster, box office hit), The Martian chronicles astronaut and goofy botanist, Mark Watney (played by Cambridge’s favorite son). You see Mark is left for dead, stranded on Mars. His crew thinks he got pulverized by debris in a hellish sand storm. To make matters worse, NASA informs the world that he’s departed and even has a bodiless funeral for him. Watney’s solution: Try to stay alive long enough for anyone listening, to realize he’s not in the grave and come back to pick him up (that could take up to three years). He figures out how to grow his own food, create water from almost nothing, and locate the Pathfinder probe (a robotic spacecraft from 1997). By locating this probe, he will get the chance to regain contact with Earth.

    Now based on “Martian’s” trailer, I thought it might be silly for NASA to garner many man hours, fork over millions of dollars for a rescue mission, and have five of their crew members risk their lives to save one dude. I was erroneous. This vehicle makes you care about it all and then some. The actors do solid work across the board. You have Oscar nominees (Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor), villainous heirs (Sean Bean), and comedic veterans (Kristin Wiig, Mackenzie Davis) contributing threefold. The film’s only heavy is perhaps, space and time (you could also throw in Jeff Daniels as Teddy Sanders, a snobbish, cocksure NASA contingent). Ah heck, it’s safe to say that The Martian is darn predictable (you know Watney’s gonna make it home, come on). The journey to get there though is still pretty alluring and seat-grabbing (if you wanna be Robert Downey Jr., just puncture your vacuumed suit and let it ride, hint hint).

    In conclusion, various, big time directors have tried their hand at making quality cinema via the red planet (that includes the swooping Brian De Palma and John Carpenter). They failed miserably where Scott at least succeeds on a few levels. In the past, some of his work has lacked sentimentality relying on violent images and distant temperaments to get the job done. Here, he paints a picture more human, more amicable. Yeah The Martian is a bit overlong (a two hour running time could have sufficed things) and it sledgehammers comedy in the face of death and dying. However, when the lights go down and you have popcorn in hand, there’s entertainment value plus intellectual insight to keep everyone occupied. Oh and you know what, David Bowie’s “Starman” never sounded so good. Rating: 3 stars.

    Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

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  • “Dear America, remember that astronaut we killed and had a really nice funeral for? Turns out he’s alive, and we left him on Mars. Our bad, sincerely NASA.”

    I hope NASA draws its conclusions after watching this film. Namely rearranging their budget. First, they can scrap these expensive looking airlocks and replace them by locks made of cellophane which is attached with use of duct tape. Now they can use that extra budget for a reserve communication system in the base station so that any abandoned crew-member can still contact the control center in Houston if the initial one fails. They would hear for the first time: “Houston, I have a problem”. That was the first thing that flashed through my mind after watching this otherwise smashing great SF, created by the unsurpassed, “my all time favorite” brilliant director Ridley Scott. The (for me) blatant misstep “Exodus”, is hereby forgiven.

    Mars is hot. Not literally, of course. But the recent revelations of NASA about flowing water and solar storms that changed Mars into a cold, dry planet, made sure Mars came to be the center of attention. It’s not really science fiction anymore, because there are plans already to built settlements on Mars around 2023. Contrary to what’s shown in “The Martian”, these settlers will depart with a “one way ticket”. Best those volunteers say goodbye thoroughly because their final destination is the local crematorium on Mars. Initially this wouldn’t happen with the scientists in “The Martian”. Until there’s a terrible storm showing up which forces them to pack their bags and catapult themselves from this red planet. But they weren’t expecting debris flying around, causing Mark Watney (Matt Damon) to be impaled like a delicious souvlaki. And then he sits there alone on that damn planet, light years away from his home planet. Remi on Mars. Or the new Robinson Crusoe. But this time without an ocean.

    Matt Damon apparently prefers to play the stranded space traveler, since he also did that in “Interstellar”. The big difference with “Interstellar” lies in the scientific accuracy. The solutions Mark comes up with to survive and the circumstances on Mars, are theoretically possible (only the devastating storm at the beginning is fiction). This in contrast with “Interstellar” where everything is based on theories which aren’t tested in reality. We know about “black holes”. They are kind of interstellar hatches. But we still don’t know for sure where you end up, after tumbling in such a hole, and what effect it has on time. I guess this is still a mystery. Sadly enough, “The Martian” also has some points of comparison with “Gravity”, that other space-epic that turns into a survival trip avant la lettre. Just like in that movie, the setbacks follow in rapid succession. The only difference, in “Gravity” it’s grossly exaggerated.

    What I liked the most was the perfect balance between scientific gibberish, the tension and the perfectly dosed humorous moments. The scientific part was even for a layman like myself perfectly apprehend-able. Partly thanks to the sometimes reliable explanations from the video-log which Mark kept from day one. Needless to say the film is filled with nerve-racking, exciting moments. But especially the comic moments made this an enjoyable film. A perfect task for Matt Damon with his charming, boyish smile who solves every problem with a casual quip and a dose of positivism and perspective. Even the control center of NASA, which is filled to the brim with humorless, serious science nerds, made me smile from time to time. I never thought that the combination of queerly disco music, old episodes of “Happy Days” and aluminum-wrapped human excrement’s, could amuse me.

    Money wasn’t an issue for making this blitz film. Not only is this demonstrated by the used images, but also by the star-cast. Besides Damon there’s also Jeff “Dumb and Dumber” Daniels, Sean “Boromir” Bean, Chiwetel “12 Years a Slave” Ejiofor, Jessica “Interstellar” Chastain and Sebastian “Winter Soldier” Stan. Each and everyone performs brilliantly. And furthermore, the images of space, the landscape of Mars and the spacecrafts are beautifully portrayed. Sadly enough at the apotheosis, the MacGyver-level was extremely high. Let’s hope that the Soviet Union isn’t offended in their honor because the Chinese salvaged the situation. Fortunately we were spared from a mass of waving American flags in the end. But despite the “We love NASA” and “We will prevail” atmosphere, this was a superb movie, worth a re-watch. A top survival drama.

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  • The Martian centers on a triangulation.
    One point is the vastness of the cosmos. Hence the astronomical distances and calculations and the recurring shot of Mark Watney (Matt Damon) as a minuscule dot moving across the red landscape of Mars.
    The other immensity is the astonishing achievement of human technology. This works on two levels: (i) the science demonstrated in the mechanics of space travel and communication and (ii) the equally impressive scientific effects in the composition of the film itself. Cinema as well as science is celebrated in the film’s dramatic visuals. When Martinez jokes that Mark is “just a botanist, not a real scientist,” the gag makes all of science an index of mankind’s achievement. Of course, it’s Watney’s savvy as a botanist that enables him to grow potatoes in his own excrement on Mars and thus to survive. Botany is the science of earth, here the balance against the science of space.
    The third pole, in tension with these two immensities, is the worth of the individual human life. However impressive the realization of space travel and man’s new technology, the film’s essential value is one person’s life. The team members vote unanimously to risk their own lives to save their colleague. In the rescue’s climax two space-suited bodies float through space, clinging to a slender sash until they can clutch each other.
    That teamwork extends outward to the national community — when all America (i.e., CNN and Times Square) gathers to root for Watney’s rescue — and internationally, when China volunteers its advanced propulsion system to save him. For the latter to happen, humanity has to transcend politics. Both countries’ scientists have to do an end run around their respective governments.
    In the more conventional version of teamwork, two of the astronauts end up marrying and having a baby. All the examples of connection, teamwork, community, are based on the value of the individual life, which should — but does not always, or even often, ok, maybe ever — transcend considerations of the collective. Fiction reminds us what we should make our reality.
    The film draws on earlier fiction forms as well. Watney’s ingenuity recalls Robinson Crusoe and the Tom Hanks and Spalding affair. Pillaging the unclaimed seas, Watney styles himself Blondbeard the Pirate. The individual life is what traditional fiction has celebrated and it remains the primary value even amid the impressiveness of ultramodern science and the newly fathomed reaches of the universe. Watney recites his log as a reminder that all the splendours we’re seeing are at least balanced and usually trumped by the value of the individual consciousness.

  • Another excellent Ridley Scott movie!
    This is one of the more memorable movies I have seen, in some ways it is very hard to describe how good I felt it was. Matt Damon shows what I always thought about him, that he is an intelligent actor able to give any role that special touch. He is playing a very intelligent character and he does it seamlessly. He also gives the character a sardonic sense of humor, which means this is not cold or pure hard science. Likewise, when he finally interacts with the rest of the crew of his ship, the interplay is what you would expect.

    The movie is a rare thing, it is a hard science fiction movie that has the human touch, the casting was fantastic and you see the humanity.It has touches of Apollo 13 where the nerds with the pocket protectors and slide rules pull off a miracle, but it also has a lot of the human emotion, humor and at times sadness, that make it real. John Campbell, considered the founder of modern SF, said that science fiction was not about the technology, but about how human beings react to it, and that is the core of this movie. The fact that the technology here is not star wars level, but technology that either does or potentially could exist in the near future, and it makes it come off as something that might happen.

    It is also nice to see a movie where the heroes are not all white nerdy guys, plenty of those, but plenty of other people, the mission is commanded by a woman, women play major roles, and you have a lot of non white people as scientists and such. I think that helps give the feeling of awe the movie generated in me, that it was a mish mash of people working to have this happen.

    The movie is long, yet it didn’t seem like that, and where you have a movie where a single character is on the screen most of the time and it doesn’t drag, that says something. The filming is well done, and this has elements of a lot of Ridley Scott’s work, though I personally think it is his masterpiece, if this is his last movie it is a doozie.

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