“The Martian,” based on the bestselling novel by Andy Weir, is a modern science fiction masterpiece. When a crewed mission to Mars is suddenly abandoned, astronaut Mark Watney is accidentally left for dead. With limited options, Watney must somehow survive on a planet with no oxygen or food supply for at least a year before NASA could send a rescue team.
Director Ridley Scott has done it again. He may not have had the best track record in recent years, but science fiction is his niche. This could have easily been adapted into a serious drama, but he was smart enough to let the source material’s humor shine through. As Watney was trapped in extraordinary circumstances, he never lost hope and always had a snarky, deadpanned comment to offer his video diary, the stand in for the audience. Even the periods of time we were away from Watney on Mars, NASA kept up the energy on Earth. It was interesting to see the political realities and monetary logistics at play with a government agency in the midst of crisis.
The cast of this movie could have sunk this project. Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig, Sebastian Stan, Kate Mara – that many big names could easily have stolen the spotlight from one another and thrown scenes out of whack. That was not the case here, though, as the entire cast meshed together with dynamite chemistry. Damon as Watney is the obvious choice for MVP. He brought Watney’s dry sense of humor to life and was easily likeable. Damon played the part of a NASA astronaut and gifted botanist with surprising believability. Both the novel and the film were very much grounded in reality in terms of science and logistics.
The only major thing that was completely impossible was the event that caused Watney to become stranded on Mars in the first place: the dust storm.
On Mars, the pressure is less than one percent that of Earth’s at sea level. A 100 mile per hour gust on Mars would feel like nothing more than a breeze, as there isn’t enough pressure to push anything larger than dust particles around. Even Andy Weir, the novel’s author, admits that. He just needed something to set the plot in motion.
Other things on the planet Mars were pretty accurate, however. There would be dust devils, and when water is exposed to a near vacuum, it sublimates to gas. The movie does a wonderful job showing that Mars is a very inhospitable place.
One thing about Mars that was slightly disappointing were the landscape choices. While the film was absolutely beautiful, Scott and the production crew chose to make Mars look the same in each location, despite having Watney travel nearly 2000 miles around the planet. If you did that on Earth, there would be many different types of landscapes to capture.
NASA was portrayed in a somewhat accurate manner for a Hollywood film. The political bartering, as well as not having enough money for future missions are harsh realities in many space agencies. The film does a fantastic job of showing nerd culture at NASA, as well as making them out to be normal people.
The one thing that was completely unrealistic was the nice, chic hotel look of all the NASA facilities. Many NASA employees that watched the film have had a good chuckle over these scenes because, lets be honest, they are not that nice. If NASA had the money to make their facilities look that nice, they would use it on actual missions, not internal aesthetics.
Even so, this film was thrilling, engaging and hilarious. Damon as well as the rest of the cast did a great job bringing the story to life. Even with the someone unrealistic items in the movie, which you won’t notice unless you know to look for it, this was hands down the best Mars movie to date and one of the best space films ever made.
Verdict: 5/5 stars