Starring: Matt Damon
So I realize I may be a Johnny come lately on this review considering the movie came out this past summer and countless people have written reviews. Perhaps, though, it’s better that way.
We all should know they basic story of this movie by now but I’ll fill you in just in case. Astronaut Mark Watney is marooned on Mars when a storm forces him and his crew to evacuate. The film follows Watneys struggle to survive on the big red planet as well as those who are on earth and in space trying to rescue him. I watched The Martian three times before writing this review…but not necessarily because it was that great of a movie. It took me three viewings to decide whether or not I actually liked it or if I was forcing myself to like it because it’s a golden globe winner, academy award nominee, I’m a Matt Damon fan and it was incredibly popular.
I ended up liking the movie. I liked it as much as I liked Gravity and I think it put Damon up at another level as far as his acting talent goes. I would give it a solid 3 out of 5 stars (maybe 4) but I won’t say it’s Oscar material. I will say I felt a little let down. I was hoping for more emotional depth and more feeling all the way around but I did enjoy Watneys personality. His personal video recordings were handled in the same way how I think I would handle things if I was stuck on Mars. Of course, I would be screwed because I, “don’t math good” and I would die. I thought some of his one-liners when he was all alone were hilarious. It made me wonder, though, how would his character react if he never was able to contact NASA and the rescue still happened (somehow). How crazy would he have been because in this case he seemed to keep his humanity and spirits up?
The special effects were amazing, the set design was awesome and it felt incredibly realistic. Even the science and technology used was realistic and feasible (did anyone else notice they never specified a year when this took place?) Space movies are a hard genre in the film industry I think. Movie fans of this genre are so particular and many, I think, have at least rudimentary background in science and space or interested in it. For some, in an older generation 2001 Space Odyssey set the bar or even the Right Stuff and for younger folks something like Gravity or Firefly might do it. What gives the most accurate depiction of future space travel is up in the air.
There were some great moments in The Martian, little Easter eggs that only hardcore movie and book fans would notice. In one scene some NASA administrators were arguing about the code name for a special mission and their secret names. The name Elrond came up and then they started picking out code names based on Lord of the Rings. Ironically Sean Bean who played Boromir in the first film in the LOTR trilogy was in The Martian and in this scene (I was never sure about his position at NASA though) which gave me a chuckle. Another thing that I noticed that wasn’t relevant when the movie came out was the playing of David Bowie’s song “Starman”. With last week’s passing of the rock icon, I found this scene in the movie and relevancy of the song all that more touching and meaningful. Oh and don’t forget Bucky Barns from Captain America was in this so that made the Iron Man reference a little funnier.
Overall the movie would without a doubt rank in the top 10 for my favorite space themed movies but I don’t know if it would make the top 5 and here is why.
The music– I wasn’t a fan of the music because I hate disco. Although I found it humorous and it played into certain scenes of the movie well (I know that was the point) there wasn’t much an emotional tie in between the music and the story. I like movies where the score and the script go hand in hand and they elevate each other. Another space movie (also co-starring Jessica Chastain and Matt Damon) was Interstellar. That score made the film, even more dramatic and really set the mood for almost every scene.
Details – I didn’t like the abrupt seven-month jump where Watney lost all the weight. I was shocked and horrified with how much he looked like some poor holocaust victim. I would have liked to see at least a little bit of this seven-month time because the dramatic jump just left me saying, “what the hell happened here?” I really wanted to see the crew’s reaction to his physically deteriorated condition after the dramatic rescue. I think that would have added to the emotional value of the film. But the closest we got was him taking his helmet off and them commenting on his smell.
People on Earth – Part of the draw of this movie was that the whole world united (more or less) to rescue Watney. With the exception of the final scene (the actual rescue), there wasn’t much shown in regards to whether or not the people on earth really cared much. I felt this was a giant missing element of the film. I hate to say it but it’s a great example of where “showing not telling” would be better. If idea was to show the possibilities of the future of human space travel if the people of earth worked together for that goal it wasn’t made very clear.
The End – Although I liked the summary at the end when it showed where the members of that crew were after the rescue mission I would have liked to see the crew and Watney actually arrive on earth. Yes, I wanted to see the Top Gun celebration butt slapping, high fives and all. Overall the ending reminded me of how the Tom Hanks movie Castaway ended.
There were two moments of the movie for me that were very touching emotionally. They were when they were doing the final countdown before the rescue and Watney started crying after he said: “Go”. The second is after the rescue was announced and the blonde girl with glasses started crying. I don’t know why that last one hit me so hard but perhaps it was because she was the first one at NASA to realize Watney was still alive. The movie is really a must see if you like Matt Damon and space movies. It’s not the best in my opinion and far from it but still a high quality movie. Now I just need to read the book it was based on.
-Just a note. I watched this on OnDemand and haven’t seen the deleted scenes or bonus feature which may exist on the DVD/Blueray version-