Drew Goddard (Book by Andy Weir)
Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Askel Hennie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Mackenzie Davis, Donald Glover
PG-13 for some strong language, injury images, and brief nudity.
Buy on DVD/Blu-ray
If you were stuck on Mars, would you have the knowledge and the wherewithal to survive months, weeks, days, or even hours? In The Martian, a botanist finds himself trapped on the red planet where he must hope that rescue will come before his ability to survive runs its course.
Matt Damon stars as Mark Watney, a member of a small crew sent to Mars to expand their understanding of the environment of the planet and attempt to create a sustainable outpost for future exploration. When a sudden dust storm threatens to topple their only means of escape, the team attempts to flee the planet before it’s too late, escaping just in the nick of time, but abandoning Watney planetside.
With little hope of rescue, Watney attempts to use science to his advantage and find a way to survive as long as possible, not knowing for sure if anyone will come to his aid. Finding a way to generate water on the dusty, barren planet provides one of his earliest challenges, but he tries countless times to perfect the method and eventually succeeds.
Set in the not-so-distant future, this science-heavy drama with comedic accents gives Damon his most engaging and charming vehicle yet. Watney isn’t perfect, as no scientist is, and experimentation is every bit as important as knowledge, but his myriad successes and failures give insight into the scientific method while engaging and entertaining the audience in vastly compelling ways.
Some periphery performances bear some scrutiny, but the cast is largely superb as an array of thoughtful, intelligent men and women break barriers, explore solutions, and showcase why many of us got so interested in science, especially space sciences, as children. The intense, impactful screenplay by Drew Goddard, based on the book by Andy Weir, gives the various performers plenty to work with as they create a tapestry of performances that urge the audience’s emotional investment.
Director Ridley Scott infuses excitement and intrigue into a premise that’s stretched to two-and-a-half hours, but feels like it’s much breezier. His ability to create tension, perfected three decades earlier, has been honed to great success in a feature that acts as more of an exception in his latter career than as an example.
This is the Scott many of us have been longing to rediscover since he became mired in a sea of films of dubious and intermittent quality. His last widely productive period of high quality output ended with 1991’s Thelma & Louise and has been wildly inconsistent since then with more failures than successes in the interim.
Whether or not The Martian marks a successful return to form for Scott or not, it remains a highly engaging feature that deserves attention regardless of its director’s surrounding misadventures. Damon is more accessible than he’s ever been, proving a fitting everyman through which to frame this science-laden and involving film.
July 27, 2020