It is no secret that I was just a little excited about Andy Weird’s The Martian being adapted into a book, especially after seeing that Matt Damon was taking up the mantle of Mark Watney. Since then I have written several articles about the movie ranging from its exceptional “ARES-Live” promotional videos and other trailers to Donald Glover’s unique role in the film. Truth be told, I even forced my mother to read the book with the promise that when she finished it…well… I would pay for her ticket to go see the film.
And who wouldn’t be excited about this film? Hell, even NASA was excited about the film and, according to The Washington Post, Andy Weird and his book may have saved the space program by creating buzz and excitement about space exploration. They also hoped that the film would create the interest in spaceflight and travel the same way that Stanley Kubric’s 2001: A Space Odyssey did in its 1968 release. Naturally, NASA wanted to be involved in the project and the “Staff from many NASA departments consulted on the film, from script development through principal photography, and are now helping with marketing timed to the theatrical release.” They have partnered with the film more than they ever have with a space-journey film and that made my excitement for the film even greater. Granted, this movie would still have it theatrical ridiculousness that follows any Hollywood film, it is entertainment first after all, but its an exciting thought that, like the book had hoped to be, the film might be grounded in reality and things in the movie might just be possible.
When the crew of the Ares III, a manned missed to Mars, is hit by an extremely dangerous storm, they are forced to abort their mission and head back to earth. After leaving the artificial habitat(hab) and heading to the rocket that will allow them to leave Mars, Mark Watney, the crew’s botanist, is struck by a satellite dish and is presumed dead. The Crew’s commander Melissa Lewis is forced to decide to leave him behind and head back to earth. However, unknown to the crew, Watney survived the incident and made it back to the hab.
He survived, quite honestly, by a huge stroke of luck. When he was struck by the dish, a part from it impaled him and his suit was breached. However, the metal pike that had impaled him, along with his blood freezing due to the cold Martian temperature, created a seal in the suit and saved him from bleeding out. After making it back to the hab, Watney pulled out the metal pike and begins making a series of video logs to help boost his morale. He then gains resolve to “not die” on Mars and starts taking steps to ensure his survival. But with few rations, little resources and help being over a hundred million of miles away, he odds of survival seem nonexistent.
If it is not already obvious, this movie was spectacular. I was a fan of the book prior to seeing the film– and now I am a fan of the movie as well! Matt Damon Captures the sarcasm, wit, intelligence and light-heartedness of Watney perfectly. He was funny when needed to be but delivered an oscar-worthy performance that relies soley on his ability to be a compelling character with little-to-no supporting cast to help him along in his scenes. And he carries it his role to perfection while bringing his own “Watney-flare” to the screen.
That’s really the best part about this movie… it is equal parts Robinson Crusoe and Tom Hanks from Cast Away, but brings in enough elements from earth and NASA that it feels like a docu-drama that is focused on Mark Watney’s rescue mission. It balances two completely different movies extremely well. We could have seen a movie that focused only on Watney and his crazy long mission on the Martian surface and it could have been a movie focused on NASA’s attempt to rescue their stranded astronaut. And they could have done so and created two distinctly different but possibly equally successful films, but they chose instead to focus on both seemingly equally. And it really pays off in the film as its two and a half hour run time feels like a breeze, leaving your only regret in the fact that you did not get to see more.
The film is also chalked full of amazing cast members even when you exclude Damon. This film features Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels and Donald Glover, just to name a few– and there are plenty more. And the best part is that the casting here as well was perfect. No star seems out of place in this film as they all capture their respective roles perfectly. Jeff Daniels, in particular, plays the director of NASA and brings with him a sort of professional gravitas that could have easily made him the villain of the film. It would have been easy to have a character to blame or to hate– but this film doesn’t do that. Daniels balances the human aspect– of a man who wants to save his astronaut, as well as the political/business aspect– where he has to make decisions that might mean either killing Watney, or killing a half-dozen more astronauts. And he does so with surprising likability! I am not saying that he might deserve a “best supporting role” nomination for this film… I am just saying that one of these amazing actors deserve it and they’re all so amazing that I cannot figure out who.
This film also did a great job of figuring out what to include from the book as well as what to exclude. There are some, hardly noticeable, plot points missing in the movie, like Watney being caught in a second storm, the Rover tipping, and other issues he ran into during his attempt at Martian survival. And, as a fan of the book, I was expecting to be angry and such inevitable changes. However, after watching the film, I was pleasantly surprised to feel like they had made the right choices in what to keep or what to cut. Most of the stuff the kept out, with the way they told the story on film, I think, would have honestly made the film way to long– or they would have had to focus less on earth, which would have been detrimental to the film as a whole in my opinion. The movie was so well done, so well put together and planned, that the parts that were missing from the book would have just made the whole movie suffer–which is rare for a book-turned-movie.
So yeah– I loved this film from beginning to end and am just now realizing that my “rating” section….well… might be a little biased? Oh well… here it goes!
The plot can easily be summed up to “It is Cast-Away on Mars”! I mean, you wouldn’t be wrong in this description– the unique part about the film is the setting difficulties that surround that setting. Watney is hundred of millions of miles away from earth, he has very little in the way of supplies and his hopes of survival are bleak especially when you consider the amount of time that he has to stay on the planet (4 years). But again, there are two sub-plots that surround the overarching main story. The first, of Watney’s survival on Mars and the second is how NASA and the astronauts for on a crazy mission, risking their lives in the process, to save him. Both are done extremely well and could have been great standalone films all by themselves and my only regret is I wanted to see more of both! (18/20)
The characters were the main reason that made this movie great– Watney in particular was amazing to see on screen. He is crass, sarcastic, humorous and extremely resourceful. It was great to see him solve seemingly impossible problems on screen and even better to see him struggle with interactions between him and NASA and his constant disagreements with them. Which makes sense, for three months he had been completely autonomous when focusing on his survival and when he finally makes contact with earth, NASA goes crazy trying to micromanage him–leading to Watney being angry and frustrated. But again, even the side characters were perfectly done and essential to the story. They made everyone extremely accessible and human and I doubt anyone in the audience would have trouble identifying with most or at least some of the characters in the film. (20/20)
Just like the characters, the acting was amazing and everyone did a great job. This film could have easily fallen apart of Matt Damon couldn’t carry his solo-scenes and it could have easily fallen apart had the NASA-workers been unlikable. They keep you intrigued in the story by allowing you to root for the characters and hope for the success of the mission. (20/20)
This is a tough one. I loved both subplots in the film but wanted to see more of both. I loved seeing NASA attempt to solve the problems associated with bringing Watney home the same way I loved seeing Watney be…well… Watney. So I am torn in the fact that I wanted to see both, but thought that both subplots did so well together. So while I cannot give full points… dammit I will give a lot of points for storytelling! (28/30)
Do I even have to comment on this? Full marks across the board! I loved their ad-campaign as they didn’t shove trailers down your throat but, instead, released promotional videos introducing you to the main character as well as the supporting cast in a NASA-esque setting that allowed you to familiarize yourself with the characters. (10/10)
And here is one of the promotional videos released: