The Martian is a movie that is so good it caused a reaction in me that I rarely have. As soon as the final credits (a great sequence, by-the-way, don’t leave or turn off the film before they are over) were complete, I turned to The Cinnamon Girl and said “we have to tell everyone we know to go see this movie.”
We ended up seeing it in the theater 3 times ourselves.
I had read the wonderful book by Andy Weir on which the film is based and, as excited as I was that the movie was being made – and with such a terrific cast to boot, I was a little concerned that the movie would have a hard time capturing the unique tone of the novel. Weir’s The Martian is, primarily, a first person narrative and one that relies almost entirely on Whatney to make the reader care about the goings on. Brash, irreverent and laden with science that is far beyond my understanding but seems more than authentic, the book was a page turner that I completed in days (and then told all of my reader friends to immediately pick up). It seemed a tough adaptation to nail.
I need not have worried.
Directed by the talented Ridley Scott and written by Drew Goddard, The Martian maintains all of the joy and humor of the Weir novel while also further developing the stories of the crew that left title character Mark Watney behind and fleshing out the NASA ground personnel that work to bring him home. That it makes some significant changes to the story of the novel is to be expected – most movies do thus to their source material. The changes made are actually very much in line with the story that Scott wants to tell. They all work and have their own payoffs in the context of the film.
I am pretty sure that I felt more exhilarated at the conclusion of The Martian than I did at the conclusion of any other movie I’ve seen in a very, very long time. The Martian made me long for the fictional world it presented: one where countries across the globe unite for one cause and for one thought – that of saving the life of one man. Surely our world comes together in crisis and in tragedy. The Martian painted a world that comes together in hope as well. That’s a profound vision and more than reason enough to see and love this movie.
That Matt Damon is the title character almost ensures a good film. Damon doesn’t normally associate himself with bad movies. And that we, the audience, are going along for a rescue mission for Damon is familiar ground, too (see Interstellar, Saving Private Ryan). There were a number of jokes going around the internets about how much money has been spent on saving Matt Damon. Well, I will say if the man himself is half as affable and good natured as Mark Whatney, it’s money well spent.
Damon is terrific here – perhaps not Academy Award material, though a nomination would not surprise – and it is critical that the audience like him. Though this isn’t a Tom Hanks Cast Away-like performance in terms of screen time, we do spend an awful lot of time in the movie staring at Damon doing… things. If he isn’t sympathetic or believable, the movie collapses.
It doesn’t. Damon is magnetic in his role.
In fact, the same can be said for the rest of the cast of The Martian. From Jeff Daniel’s NASA director Teddy Sanders to Jessica Chastain’s Commander Lewis to Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Vincent Kapoor and Sean Bean’s Mitch Henderson (and everyone in between), the entire cast seems to know that it’s involved in something special. Frankly, I believe that’s why Kristen Wiig is even in the movie. She’s not given a lot to do – though she does great with what she’s given. It seems she just wanted to be associated with the movie. I get it. Who wouldn’t want to be?
The Martian hits a type of story I like very, very much – a story wherein the audience gets to watch very smart people doing very smart things. At each point when things seem bleak for Whatney, a solution is reached. At each moment where the character is about to give up and reconcile himself to his fate, the problem is worked through.
This is a surprisingly funny, wonderfully engaging movie. It makes one think about hope and aspirations without swelling music and manipulative movie tropes. It is inspiring.
THE MARTIAN receives FIVE MANURE POTATOES out of a possible five.