You can’t really call this a sci-fi movie, since these events in it could actually happen, and may happen before the end of our lifetime. But the truth is The Martian isn’t based on any true story yet–although I kept having to remind myself of that. Of course it would all be more impressive and meaningful if it were–like Apollo 13 for instance. It’s this odd “not quite sci-fi” aspect that makes Ridley Scott’s newest project a little different. It’s easy to accept the different script beats when we’re watching a film where we’re encapsulated so much by the unique concept and universe, but when viewing something that COULD be real yet isn’t, we may be likely to say to ourselves, “Hmm, I wonder why the filmmakers chose to do that.” Not to say that The Martian is predictable, but it does lack a certain “so crazy that it has to be true” element–because it’s not true, and it’s really not crazy if you think about what we could accomplish in the next 50 years or less.
The Martian is a film about a manned Mars mission where a series of events lead 5 crew members to believe that their sixth member (Matt Damon) is indeed dead. They leave him behind and head home. Meanwhile, NASA discovers that Damon’s character, Mark Whatney, is actually alive, but they can’t afford for his crew to turn around and get him because they wouldn’t have enough resources to elongate the trip.
It’s a star-studded cast featuring, alongside Damon, Jeff Daniels, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover, et al. The acting is terrific, and on a technical level this film is nearly perfect.
It may not take enough risks for some of the more macabre members of the audience, but it never bothers me as it’s refreshing to get some representation of yesteryear in film. It’s pretty Spielberg-esque in the sense that it’s not very dark and nothing truly unpredictable happens–since, really, we haven’t enough knowledge in order to predict what would happen. It’s a subject that not many laypersons know about. But (spoiler alert) there aren’t any surprise alien encounters or anything like that. Given the limited information we have, we can foresee certain possibilities ahead of time. But The Martian is such a unique film that we love every minute of it. We live so vicariously through Damon’s character that it makes the journey feel so much more real.
Some of the banter between scientists becomes pretty heavy, but I applaud it for making the situations understandable without dumbing it down.
It’s just a pleasing film to watch and has a classic cinema quality to it. It’s a little long at nearly 2 and a half hours, but it never seems to drag, and the length serves to emphasize the perenniality of Whatney’s marooning.
It’s one of the best films of the year, and one of the most well done movies you’ll see in recent years. It will be hard to find someone who doesn’t recommend this one.