Editor’s Notes: The Martian is currently out in wide theatrical release.
Everyone and their grandmother knows Ridley Scott has lost his way as of late. The once-great British auteur had become so focused on the stylistic aspects of his recent projects that he neglected narrative and allegorical impact that made his greatest work feel so vital. Last year’s Exodus: Gods and Kings was one of the absolute worst films released by a major studio for a very long time, and the less said about his painfully pretentious alleged “thriller” The Counselor the better. A great Ridley Scott picture should be the rule; not the exception to it. Yet, that’s exactly what his enthralling survival drama The Martian is: exceptional. It was certainly worth the wait…
Goddard magnificently even-handed script gifts every member of the excellent ensemble individual moments to showcase their talents.
In the not-too-distant future, astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon, Hollywood’s go-to everyman) is presumed dead when his Mars mission crew are forced to flee the Red Planet during a scientifically-shoddy (though narratively necessary) storm. Mark has four years to survive before the next mission arrives, and supplies to last him just one. He, as with the Earth-bound NASA team looking to bring him home, has to “science the s**t out of it” to have any hope of leaving the desolate landscape he now calls home.
Drew Goddard adapts Andy Weir’s novel, giving its “Gravity for geeks” premise the genuine heart and humanity sorely lacking from Scott’s latter-day filmography. Watney, despite the gravity (pun alert!) of his predicament, always stays positive and upbeat. Goddard richly layered script suggests that his wise-cracking attitude is more of a defence mechanism; if Watney were to recognise his dire circumstances at face value,, he would crush beneath the weight of it all. Damon delivers these deliciously witty one-handers in grand spirits, never crossing the line from wistful to irksome.
There is a lot to learn from the entirely plausible tale of a divided world united by the strength, will and determination of one man.
Though certainly Damon’s film, The Martian’s call sheet is absolutely loaded with huge names to paint the full, marvellously orchestrated picture. Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig, Donald Glover and Chiwetel Ejiofor are just some of the A-listers categorically proving the notion that surrounding yourself around talented people all but guarantees your success. Goddard magnificently even-handed script gifts every member of the excellent ensemble individual moments to showcase their talents. There are no characters, only those with differing priorities and obligations, all joining together for a common cause.
In that sense, The Martian is a truly inspiring experience. There is a lot to learn from the entirely plausible tale of a divided world united by the strength, will and determination of one man. A film for the ages, it posits a future where trivial rivalries are superceded by the desire to do what is right. It almost feel like a spiritual companion to Pacific Rim, in that they are two uniquely compelling sci-fi movies centred on humanity’s innate desire for togetherness. Its universal themes of collaboration and perseverance are sure to make this sublime epic a timeless classic. It’s a ridiculously fun time, but also an important one.
One has to envy the young children who will see The Martian for the first time in their earliest years of development. A staggeringly brilliant testament to the human spirit, it functions not only as a great crowd-pleaser, but a celebration of science, knowledge and compassion and will surely have a profound effect on the next generation of inventors, explorers and technicians. The world will be a much better place when led by those who have modelled themselves on Mark Watney. For that, and the sci-fi masterpiece along with it, we should be forever grateful.
A staggeringly brilliant testament to the human spirit, it functions not only as a great crowd-pleaser, but a celebration of science, knowledge and compassion and will surely have a profound effect on the next generation of inventors, explorers and technicians.