After much anticipation, the adaptation of Andy Weir’s The Martian premiered this weekend. Whether that anticipation was from the smash hit book itself, or director Ridley Scott, the expectations were unquestionably high for this film. Having just finished reading the book a few days ago (and LOVING it), I found myself hesitant but very excited.
In terms of overall story, the film is a fun sci fi movie. Without going into detail, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is abandoned on Mars after his fellow crew think he died from a dust storm right as they were leaving Mars. Thus leading to the story of the film, how Mark survives and how NASA deals with this situation back on earth. As (partial spoilers but not really) NASA discovers Mark is actually alive, they make it a top priority to do everything in their power to bring him home, and the next two hours are edge of your seat twists and turns, as we see Mark and NASA succeed and times but also fail on occasion. Initially, we move on a slower pace, as we watch the initial response from both locales to the situation, on top of getting world building for the story. This was became very engaging, and right off the bat, most of these characters become empathetic to the audience. As we progress, the pace picks up, and the action and tension grow. It became a little bit of an issue as we got toward the end, as the resolution came fairly fast. Those who’ve read the book know how every positive reaction in the book is an incredible payoff from the journey we read, and we didn’t always get that here. For example, (SPOILERS) as Mark makes his way to the Schiaparelli Crater to essentially have a chance at rescue, the trip happens off screen. However, in the book, we see him have to make his way around a massive dust storm, making that end result all the sweeter. Since the movie was already a fairly long two and a half hours, I can understand that cuts needed to be made. There were a lot of nitty gritty science and engineering not in the film (which wouldn’t have translated well anyway), which could cause some holes if you were really nit picky, but it never got distraction for me, and overall Drew Goddard (known for his work on Netflix’s Daredevil) wrote a very engaging movie.
The one big problem I had with the film came in the ending. (SPOILERS AGAIN) after Watney is saved, we are taken to the future, where he is on Earth teaching NASA recruits on how to survive in space. It ended the movie a little too cleanly for my liking, even without the knowledge of what happens in the end of the book (which I will not spoil). There really isn’t any lingering feeling leaving the film, which I always look for in films.
In terms of casting, this was just spot on. I was expecting to hate Matt Damon, thinking he wasn’t going to have the quick quippiness of Watney from the book, but he really nailed that character, and I was almost instantly sympathetic to him. Damon’s Massachusetts “F-you” swagger worked perfectly in this role, as he manages to balance that with endearment. The supporting cast was also really strong, and I was happy to see the big names like Kristen Wiig (Annie) and Kate Mara (Johanssen) really fit in their role of supporting and didn’t seem to want to dominate more screen time. Chiwetel Ejiofor (Vincent but Venkat in the book) and Jessica Chastain (Lewis) are excellent in being hard nose NASA and military minds respectively, but also balancing that with a great sense of humanity. After this, it’ll be interesting to see Ejiofer in a villain role, as he plays Baron Mordo in the upcoming Dr. Strange, but he’s a strong actor and I look forward to it. The biggest surprises for me where Michael Pena as Martinez and Donald Glover as Rich Purnell. I loved Pena in Antman, and he continues to be humorous and fun for the audience in this one. Glover took his role a little over the top, but if you’re a fan of his, you’ll love it.
I was very happy with the production design and camera work of the movie. You really got a feel for Mars’ vast emptiness and really intense landscape, as well as the control rooms at NASA. Mars felt empty but wild at the same time as the harsh winds and dust storms which plunged everything into darkness were truly horrifying. In terms of the world we saw on earth, NASA was as you’d expect, sterile but efficient. The design really grounded you in the world.
Overall, I found myself really enjoying this movie. While not perfect, it didn’t disappoint expectations, and the cast put in some solid performances. I would say, if you liked the movie, or if you seem to like the subject matter, you should check out Weir’s novel.