The Martian: review

Brandon Buscher, E23 staff

The release of Ridley Scott’s movie adaptation of The Martian, formerly a best-selling novel by author Andy Weir, could not have come at a better time for today’s movie goer. Just days before its release, NASA announced to the world that it had discovered real flowing water on Mars which reignited excitement and curiosity towards the famed space program, and sparked an overall interest in space travel and exploration. Following this incredible news, The Martian opened with an impressive box office opening weekend, pulling in 54.3M in just three days, and dazzling movie-goers with an exciting and captivating story of a lone astronaut stranded on Mars.

The story, simply put, is a demonstration of what humans (with the help of science) are capable of when faced against overwhelming odds of adversity. The Martian, based on Andy Weir’s best-selling fictional novel, tells the story of Mark Watney, an astronaut set in the near future NASA space program, who when stranded on a mission to the planet Mars, is faced with the task of surviving and contacting humans back on earth in hopes of being rescued. The story is both riveting, and at times surprisingly hilarious, as Mark Watney summons every ounce of critical and scientific problem solving to stretch his survival as far as he can. The movie’s humor comes from the quirky and irreverent soliloquys sprinkled into the dialogue, as the main character documents his attempts at survival to his computer based video log recorder. Such examples of the hero’s strife’s vary from the threat of catastrophic Martian sand storms, to running out of ketchup for his microwaved potatoes. At first glance the movie might seem boring to some, however due both to the intriguingly unique plot of the story, and Ridley Scott’s masterful film-making, the movie keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat. With multiple sub-plots and likeable characters added into the exhibition of Andy Weir’s scientific knowledge we see during the plot action on Mars, the movie attracts and consumes both casual viewers, fans of the book, and science/space enthusiasts.

However no movie is without drawbacks and imperfections, to no one’s surprise. What might draw viewers away from the movie theater could stem from a number of issues. Fans of Christopher Nolan’s space epic Interstellar, could see themselves as being less intrigued by the Martian than others. The Martian deals with the concept of space travel, exploration, and even the possibility of death, in a somewhat lighthearted, matter-of-fact manner, that films like Interstellar or Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey, do not. This movie is science-fiction; heavy on the science, moderate on the fiction. Andy Weir’s story focuses more on delivering the real, raw information of space travel and science, and completely ignores any philosophical or poetic undertones that might be suggested when dealing with something as grandiose as traveling to another planet in this vast, undiscovered universe. Viewers looking for action and drama can find both of those elements in The Martian, but they shouldn’t expect anything remotely similar to Star Wars or any other space-centered action thriller because it’s just not there.

The performances in The Martian are overall above-par, yet don’t do anything worthy of an academy award nod or go beyond what is expected of an actor portraying a character well enough to make them come alive on screen. Matt Damon fills the shoes of Mark Watney quite well. As a quick-witted astronaut who specializes in botanical science, we see (primarily through the log interaction scenes) into the humanity of the main character, revealing him to be as reservedly terrified as he is comically sure of himself. Other ancillary supporting characters fill the rest of the dialogue, but due to the (at sometimes overwhelming) comedic nature of the film, their performances seem a little empty and glossed over at times. An honorable mention I feel the need to give is to Sean Bean who adds an element of emotional gravity to the movie that isn’t seen from the rest of the cast. Even the rescue crew, who are dealing with the most life-threatening issues in the movie, don’t seem to care as much as he does.

The Martian is a great movie going experience that has the ability to captivate audiences from all kinds of backgrounds and interests into the incredible world of science and space survival. It succeeds in making things like the organic cultivation of potatoes seem both exciting and interesting, and toys with the viewer’s expectations all throughout the film, perhaps creating an interest in science in someone who otherwise would be averse to the subject. However those seeking a more intense, emotional examination of the strength of the human spirit should look elsewhere, because this movie plays more like the best live-action science project you’ve ever seen, rather than a thrilling space epic.

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E23 Web Director Colleen Sloyan has been with MUTV for three semesters now. She is studying for a Bachelor of Journalism and a minor in Business.