Based on the popular novel, Ridley Scott’s film adaptation of The Martian is grounded, funny, visually stunning, and brilliantly acted. The film’s setting invokes curiosity, and its box office numbers prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that Americans are enamored with space travel.
The film opens as a crew of astronauts on a manned Mars mission are forced to abort the mission after a terrible storm. Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon, is impaled with a radio antenna, assumed dead, and left behind. The thing is, he’s not dead. He’s even worse: stranded on Mars with limited food and water, and no way to contact Earth. Time for him to “science the shit of out this.”
Damon’s performance as Watney is absolutely brilliant. He makes Watney relatable, and portrays a man in his situation quite realistically.
The best part of The Martian, in both the novel and film, is that the science is all grounded in reality. In the novel especially, readers are subjected to an engineer at work: one who encounters a problem and uses quick thinking, handiness and math/science/duck tape to solve it. Andy Weir’s novel is one of the reasons I’m attending Stevens today to become an engineer. This does come across in the film, though for the sake of time it cannot be detailed as much as in the novel.
The scenes set on Earth, with NASA scrambling to get Watney back alive, are equal in their brilliance. Sean Bean, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover and more each bring a new level of complexity and understanding to the film, and each shine in their roles. The only issue here is that it takes lots of characters and sub-archs to bring Watney home, and there simply isn’t time in 2 hours to get across all the information the novel does in 300-plus pages here.
Similarly, Watney’s team on it’s return trip home is absolutely fantastic. Led by Jessica Chastain and rounded off with Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan and Aksel Hennie, the crew creates a real dynamic, which was impressive for its limited screen time.
The film is strongest in its diversity. Of the Ares mission crew, two of five are female, and a female, Chastain, is the team leader. Of the Earth team, there is a good mix of men, women, and non-white characters, which shows the increasing diversification of Hollywood as well as the diversity of NASA itself.
To conclude, The Martian is one of the best space films of our generation; a must see for the curious, for lovers of science and space, i.e. every Stevens student. While it’s deviation from the novel does take away a bit, overall, it succeeds with every scene, every character, and every line. Go see this film.