Film Review – The Martian – A Reader’s Review
The Martian is a film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Andy Weir. After seeing the first trailer, I opted to read the book, and I am glad I did. It is the perfect mix of science fiction and sarcastic humor, and it is the best novel I have read in the past year. With that, it caused trepidation that director Ridley Scott could replicate that perfect mix of humor and edge of your seat (or bed) thrills.
The story follows Mark Watney (Matt Damon) as he is stranded on Mars after he was thought to be dead during an emergency evacuation by the rest of the Ares 3 crew (Commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain), Rick Martinez (Michael Peña), Beth Johanssen (Kate Mara), Chris Beck (Sebastian Stan), and Alex Vogel (Aksel Hennie)). The catch-22 is that he was left for dead in a storm that wiped out all communications with NASA on Earth. Ironically, part of the communications satellite was what punctured Watney’s stomach. The film is an involved story of how Watney ends up being found alive and how he tries to survive his desertion. This is basically the whole story and to spoil the majority of it to non-readers would be a disservice to their movie-going experience. What can be said is that the film and the novel are told from three different perspectives: Mark Watney, the Ares crew on their way back to Earth, and NASA scientists and executives on Earth.
Following in Gravity and Interstellar’s footsteps, The Martian is another great space sci-fi film. It is not centered solely in space like Gravity and is certainly less confusing than Interstellar. The film is based in a future reality similar to ours. Nothing is outlandish or completely out of the realm of possibility. Didn’t we just discover water on Mars?
To be completely honest, this is one of the best adaptations of a novel that I have seen. Considering the setting and the scientific complexities of the story, the film is surprisingly true to most of the story. No, everything from the novel is not in the film, but the main outline of it is all there. I just read the novel in June and I could pick out some events and details that were left out, but I am still gob smacked that Scott pulled it off. He took a fantastic novel and did the best he could do with the story and the limitations of technology today.
Obviously the most interesting part of the film is Watney’s struggle to survive. He is a botanist and has a sarcastic wit that pretty much is a survival technique itself. Surprisingly, Matt Damon is able to convey the cockiness and humor of Watney. This character screamed Ryan Reynolds to me, but Damon certainly stepped outside his norm for the character. If anything, I wish it was funnier, but a film such as this with constant laughs would probably throw off the audience. So I should say, there is an appropriate amount of laughter to be had from The Martian.
Speaking of humor, an inside Lord of the Rings joke is one of those great moments and great nod to casting Sean Bean as Mitch Henderson.
The film’s epilogue is my only complaint. It is not in the novel, and I felt it unnecessary to add to the emotion of the final scenes. It took away from its climax, and really did not do anything but give a mediocre closure to the characters for the audience.
The Martian is another space sci-fi film done extremely well and it is a great adaptation of its source material. The film visualizes and makes things real from the novel, things that I did not fully grasp in my reading. Ridley Scott has been hit or miss with his films of late, but this is a film that you should see ASAP. Go ahead and splurge for the 3D version also. It gives depth to the Mars landscape and is not used for special 3D effects. I have to hand it to Ridley Scott, Matt Damon, screenwriter Drew Goddard, and Andy Weir for pulling off a phenomenal story of space, adventure, and humanity. It almost is certainly a shoe in for nominations in the upcoming awards season. This is one film that I will be seeing again.