When it comes to science fiction movies, there are often films that get based on the same premise. The Martian shares its basic premise, the idea of a man stranded alone on the red planet with the almost farcical Robinson Crusoe On Mars (1964), but that’s where the similarity ends. Where the earlier film was a somewhat cheesy, fantastical ‘B’ movie without much in the way of reality as its basis The Martian, on the other hand, has as its basis a far more realistic approach that depicts Matt Damon’s character using real science as a means of survival.
I must confess that when I first heard about this movie, I wasn’t that interested in it. My thoughts were “Here we go again, another Robinson Crusoe On Mars” but boy was I wrong. This film, with excellent direction by Ridley Scott, is a horse of a different color with Marc Watney’s (Damon) witty dialogue and exposition working well as a very entertaining counterpoint to his dire situation as he declares “I’m going to have to science the shit out of this. Fuck you, Mars.” The Martian is a film that is way more engaging and compelling than I initially imagined it would be and ended up as my top pick for genre films in 2015.
Matt Damon’s portrayal as Mark Watney, a botanist who is part of the Ares III team, is right on target. Watney is presumed dead after a violent storm on Mars. Surviving the storm, Watney is forced to use his ingenuity and wit and will to survive until he can get rescued. It’s a simple enough premise, but one that is full of drama, suspense and humor as the film establishes a rapport between Watney and his support team on earth.
The excellent supporting cast that includes Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Peña, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Donald Glover, and others were also indispensable to the film’s success as a quality production
Damon’s portrayal of the scientist as hero and the triumph of intellect over despair is a concept I have often lamented the loss of in modern science fiction and superhero films where everything gets resolved by brute force and who can punch the hardest instead of by who uses their brains and wits.
It is a mature and intelligent depiction of Watney’s struggle for survival that becomes a tale of the power of both the human intellect and the indomitable human spirit. The Martian finds just the right balance between in its depiction of the film’s narrative juggling human drama, humor, and an almost documentary style depiction of its story that manages to elevate it beyond a top-notch docu-drama and become a sub-genre of its own.
The beautiful shots of Wadi Rum in Jordan that act as a backdrop of the film’s events provide a realistic portrayal that reflects the footage from the real-life rovers that have visited the planet in reality. The depiction of Mars and scenes in outer space excel as a context for the film’s events. The Martian is an excellent, delightful movie with actual science fiction concepts at its core, and a modern classic wothy of note.