Film Review: The Martian, A Better Interstellar in Almost Every Way

What happens when you put Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain in space for the second year in a row and throw in some Cast Away/Apollo 13 plotlines? You get The Martian. Directed by acclaimed Sci-Fi director Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner), this novel adaption by Andy Weir has been anticipated highly ever since the announcement came out. With a 93% and “certified fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes, does this film satisfy the novel readers, science geeks, and film goers in general?

    The film opens up with six astronauts on Mars on a mission for NASA, one of them being Mark Watney (Matt Damon). During a massive storm, the crew were forced to evacuate the planet, with Watney getting struck by debris and ultimately left behind, presumed dead. Leaving the planet, little did the crew know that Watney is actually still alive and well back on Mars, and the real conflict begins.

     Now, stranded without any communications and a tent set up with a limited amount of rations left, Watney now has to “science the shit” out of the supplies he has to survive. Eventually, NASA discovers that Watney is indeed alive out on Mars, so now it is their goal to do everything in their power to bring him home. It’s a story of man versus nature. Who will win?

    Immediately going into this film, I kept comparing this film to the previous year’s successful space adventure film, Interstellar. Both share many qualities such as the concept of space, having previous actors from the other film, and both having a goal of survival. It may not be fair to compare the two, but since I find this film much better than Interstellar, it doesn’t really bother me being harsh on it.

    One of the biggest qualities to The Martian as opposed to Interstellar was its tone. This film was pretty humorous for being about a man alone on a deserted planet. I feel like this is necessary so the experience overall is not a space drama where everyone has to be moping around.

    This film has a powerhouse of a cast. Matt Damon as Mark Watney is very likable, funny, and intelligently smart. He was simply a joy to watch him figure everything out with all the limited supplies he had. The rest of the cast were also great with well-known actors such as Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, and Chiwetel Ejifor. Overall, the casting was one of the highlights of the film.

    Visually, The Martian is very nice to look at, but nothing on the level of Interstellar or 2013 seven time Oscar winner, Gravity. At the same time, I don’t think it was trying to do anything special, visually. Unlike the other two films, The Martian focuses more on its story and characters over its effects, something that Gravity and Interstellar could have benefitted from. I didn’t see this in IMAX or in 3D, but that didn’t hurt the experience one bit.

    In terms of what didn’t work with the film, there honestly isn’t much wrong with it. The only two problems I can think of is that it is a bit long and the beginning was a bit rushed. The length is acceptable because they use every scene they have to help advance the plot without much filler, but the beginning felt like they were eager to get Watney by himself, so they kind of hurried to introduce everyone within the first few minutes, then immediately put him alone on Mars. But once he is alone, it’s smooth till the end.

    From the first trailer, I knew The Martian was going to be special. I’m not even a Ridley Scott fan at all. Thelma & Louise was decent, I hate Blade Runner, nor am I very interested in seeing Alien, but this is without a doubt his best direction ever. It seems like this is the film that finally got the true space drama right in the past few years. Gravity was visually stunning, but lacked in story and characters. Interstellar did basically the same thing with an even more complicated story and little payoff. The Martian was able to grab the audience and give them one great space experience.

This is probably the best film about space since Apollo 13. This will definitely top everything in the box office this weekend and even get some nominations these upcoming award shows. I highly recommend this to anyone who is a fan of the novel, science freaks in general, and anyone else who is looking for a cinematic experience.