Space has been the “final frontier” for decades, yet it’s only been in recent years where a steady in flux of space-centric films have been able to find the critical and commercial success that their B-movie forefathers only dreamed about. Following in line with similar films like 2013’s Gravity and 2014’s Interstellar comes Ridley Scott’s most recent foray into the stars: The Martian. Adapted by the novel of the same name by Andy Weir, The Martian features an exceptionally talented ensemble cast, a strong performance by Matt Damon, and perhaps director Ridley Scott’s return to grace following the cold reception he’s received for his latest films.
Director: Ridley Scott
Release Date: October 2, 2015
Halfway through a manned mission to Mars, a storm hits that causes the crew of Ares III to immediately evacuate. However, a crew member, Mark Watney (Matt Damon), is believed dead after a piece of equipment struck and concealed him from the rest of the crew. As NASA delivers the untimely message to the entire country, it’s soon discovered that Watney survived the storm as he must rely on his wits and scientific knowledge to survive the next three years before the next manned mission to Mars takes place. Soon enough, Watney’s movements are detected by NASA, who must then decide how to present the discovery to the media (after initially declaring him dead), as well as conceive of a successful rescue mission, despite the odds.
While the main attraction to The Martian will be Damon’s great performance (and rightfully so), the film wouldn’t have been as successful or entertaining as it is without its ensemble cast that includes such actors as Jessica Chastain (Interstellar), Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Z for Zachariah), Jeff Daniels (Looper), Michael Peña (Ant-Man), Kate Mara (Fantastic Four), Sebastian Stan (Captain America: Civil War), and a surprise (and fun!) role by Donald Glover (Community). Buoying the main plot of bringing Watney home comes a more substantial one in which NASA must circumvent the political/business trappings of the organization and their genuine interest in saving Watney’s life, allowing the main plot an added sense of grounded context that allows audiences to further empathize with the characters.
Whereas Gravity lacked the supporting cast and direct narrative and Interstellar lost viewers with a convoluted and confusing plot, The Martian takes the best from the preceding films and fills in what each lacked. Furthermore, Damon’s Watley is at times awe-inspiring with his knowledge and never-fail attitude, yet still relatable to audiences with his charm and sophomoric (re: endearing) humor. In short, if you felt Gravity and Interstellar were good films that lacked that certain something, The Martian could be what you’ve been waiting for.
Those worried that Scott lost his magic following the lacking Prometheus, The Counselor, and Exodus: Gods and Kings should find solace knowing that Scott’s back on the right track. The Martian possesses a story deep enough for thinkers to enjoy and casual viewers to understand, a stellar cast that gets the right amount of time for their talents/characters to shine, and a great lead performance by Damon. Make sure you catch The Martian as soon as you can.