The crew of the Aeris III mission on Mars is forced to leave the red planet earlier than scheduled when a gigantic storm approaches their base camp. In the evacuation, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is struck by debris and believed dead. Watney wakes up and realizes that he is alone on Mars and will be months or years before he can be rescued, so he does everything he can to survive until help arrives.
The concept of someone getting lost in space has been done time and time again over the years. Some have tried to be more serious, while not many that I recall try to be lighthearted about the situation. The Martian opts more for the latter. What becomes of it is a fun adventure that reeled me in with its whimsical nature.
A man or group lost, alone, and without help is nothing new in the world cinema. So to stand out The Martian goes a route not many comparable films have gone: it remains laid-back. This sub-genre has the tendency to become serious and dark, this movie separates itself by never becoming like the others. Sure, there are moments when Matt Damon’s character feels hopeless, but his optimism always shines through. As a result, there are many moments that made me laugh. I honestly wasn’t expecting a movie about a man stranded on a planet to be so humorous.
This film lived or died based on Matt Damon’s performance. While a good portion of the film is spent on Earth, that group is composed of an ensemble. The majority of The Martian is spent solely with Mark Watney and his escapades on Mars. If Damon dropped the ball, the movie fell with him. I guess it is good then that he did a fantastic job. Watney went through a range of emotions while stranded, from terrified to ecstatic, from anger to joy, and many in between. Damon expertly portrayed these emotions as well as the character’s signature snarky-ness.
I didn’t really pay much attention to the cast list before going into the movie. Besides Damon, I had little idea who else was in the film. To my surprise, the cast was full of big names, such as Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean, and Jessica Chastain, as well as some other surprises including Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Michael Pena, and Donald Glover. While Damon was on his own for the majority of the film, the rest of the cast had each other to work off of. The folks at NASA in particular were an interesting bunch to watch together. This is where most of the all-stars were. Jeff Daniels may have been my favorite but they all did a good job.
Not a significant amount of time is spent with the rest of Watney’s crew, which was played by Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, and Aksel Hennie, until more towards the end. Each had their own unique personality and seemed like a fun group to be around. It was clear the actors were having a fun time together and had good chemistry. I would have liked to see more of them, but that may have stemmed from my selfish need to look at Kate Mara some more.
If I didn’t know any better, I would say The Martian was shot on the surface of Mars itself. The special effects look great and the practical effects are even better. And the cinematography was beautiful, too. So many times I was awestruck, thinking I was actually with Watney on the red planet. I don’t know what to say other than this film is very well shot and looks stunning.
The Martian isn’t your average man-stranded-in-space-alone movie. There are the helpless moments you’d expect but they are spaced between the main character’s humor and optimism. Carried by Damon and combined with its great special effects, The Martian is one of the most fun space movies I have seen in a long time.
Cast & Crew
Ridley Scott – Director
Drew Goddard – Screenplay
Andy Wier – Novel
Harry Gregson-Williams – Composer
Matt Damon – Mark Watney
Jeff Daniels – Teddy Sanders
Sean Bean – Mitch Henderson
Kristen Wiig – Annie Montrose
Chiwetel Ejiofor – Vincent Kapoor
Jessica Chastain – Melissa Lewis
Michael Pena – Rick Martinez
Kate Mara – Beth Johanssen
Sebastian Stan – Chris Beck
Aksel Hennie – Alex Vogel
Mackenzie Davis – Mindy Park
Benedict Wong – Bruce Ng
Donald Glover – Rich Purnell
Nick Mohammed – Tim Grimes
Chen Shu – Zhu Tao
Eddie Ko – Guo Ming