I didn’t see The Counselor or Exodus: Gods and Kings, but I can understand the criticisms of Ridley Scott before this movie came out. Honestly, it’s no different than how his career has been in the past. He started out great in the 70s and 80s with classics like Alien, Blade Runner, Legend, and others, had some hits and misses in the later 80s and 90s, got a resurgence in the 2000s with Gladiator, American Gangster, and others, and then the 2010s were sorta meh for him with Prometheus and those other movies I didn’t see. Not to mention the fact that a lot of his movies lately have been done in rapid succession and it’s amazing he’s able to do all that, given his age and how some filmmakers struggle to maintain some kind of auteuristic authority on projects with studios and everything, depending on circumstances. My point is, Ridley Scott, like a lot of people (including me), is not perfect, but he does his best, and when he’s at his lowest, he always comes back on top. The Martian certainly proved that, in all its beautifully shot sci-fi glory. It also kinda proved Fox can bounce back with a good sci-fi movie in 2015 after that awful Fantastic Four reboot (both have Kate Mara in it no less, and this movie is the better one she’s in btw).
The Martian is based on the book of the same name by Andy Weir, which is also a great read. For me, whenever there is a movie based on a book, comic, or some other source material, I always try to finish reading the source material before watching the adaptation. I understand that sometimes an adaptation can be judged on its own merits as well as being judged as an adaptation. I have weird tendencies with this, is all. What I’m saying is that I was really trying to get through reading the book while it was still in theaters, and trust me I was in a hurry doing so because I didn’t want to miss out seeing it in theaters. As far as being an adaptation goes though, it does fairly well. Kinda skims over or alters some details, like Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) doing the “Iron Man routine” and being rescued by Commander Lewis (played by Jessica Chastain) instead of Beck, the ending of the movie showing how Watney and others have been doing after his rescue instead of ending right when Watney is rescued by his crew (though I like to think that’s an interesting addition to the overall story rather than an alteration), and other things. Also, I’m not a science guy, so I don’t know how “scientifically accurate” this movie, and the book it’s based on, is. I think Andy Weir and the people who made this movie consulted with NASA and others for this, so I guess it kinda shows here, given how Watney is able to utilize all the stuff he has in order to survive so long and how NASA and the Ares crew put their heads together to rescue him. And yeah there are the similarities between Gravity and Interstellar, though I think this one is a nice fit between, with Gravity being more of a thriller and Interstellar being a thinkpiece, while having some nice introspective moments for their characters, and The Martian has a more gradual pace than either of those, as well as a sense of humor. Let’s not forget the Cast Away similarities either, though I think this one has a better sense of humor than that one. Oh and this movie takes place on Mars lol.
So let’s talk about the titular Martian played by none other than Matt Damon himself. There are a lot of things that make Mark Watney such an awesome character. His intelligence, ingenuity, spontaneity, flexibility, being relatable, determination, positivity, optimism, doubts, and his greatest asset, his sense of humor (also being one of two male characters, in a 2015 movie Jessica Chastain is in, of which we get to see his ass lol). I couldn’t help but laugh at all the jokes, snarks, and comments he makes throughout the entirety of the movie. The guy is stuck on Mars, with varied amount of resources to survive, and probably has varied chances of survival, and the worst thing he thinks could kill him is listening to disco music (to be fair, disco’s not that bad, yes I said that; if I were him I’d prefer listening to 80s music, just saying lol). He does have his moments where he lashes out or doubts he’ll survive, but he pulls through because he knows he has to, he wants to get home and will do whatever it takes to get there. Also, he doesn’t blame his crew for leaving him behind, that it was the fault of the storm and all that, and if he were in their shoes he would’ve done the same thing, which pretty big of him. Probably one of the most positive characters in recent memory where a lot of leads in movies of this scope tend to be Mr. or Mrs. Frowny Pants.
The rest of the cast is played by some pretty big, well, players. Everyone, and I mean everyone in this movie, does their part well. They all got their own quirks and motivations, but it’s interesting to see how they all function together in this operation to get Watney home. On Earth, Teddy Sanders (played by Jeff Daniels) wants to make sure everything goes okay but is kind of a dick about it, while Vincent Kapoor (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), Mitch Henderson (played by Sean Bean), and others do everything they can as well, but are more open to ideas. In space, there’s the Ares crew, led by Lewis and filled out by Mark’s friend Martinez (played by Michael Pena), lovebirds Johanssen (played by Kate Mara, doing ANOTHER computer expert role; is this just a typecast for her to do computer expert characters in almost EVERYTHING she does? I’m not saying it’s bad, just it tends to happen A LOT, and there are some bad movies she plays this type of character in, like Transcendance and Fantastic Four 2015; sorry I should stop riffing on this, she does good here) and Beck (played by Sebastian Stan), and Vogel (played by Aksel Hennie). Like I said, they all have their traits and quirks, but what makes them all great is their determination to see their fellow man Mark Watney return home to Earth and not being left on Mars.
This was probably the best movie of 2015, at least that’s what I thought before seeing Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, The Hateful Eight, and The Revenant. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great movie. What makes it so great though is that, and I think the movie and book touched on this, is that it showed humanity, despite whatever problems people would have with each other, was united together under this one positive thing, and that was bringing Mark Watney home. He was in a dire situation, and they did their best to throw him a lifeline and he got it and he got back home. I think that kinda speaks for how things are in real life as well. Despite everything going on, like ISIS, Donald Trump, the mass shootings, and whatever else, there can at least be a positive story about how humanity can be united for something good despite whatever problems it has, and Andy Weir, Ridley Scott, Matt Damon, Simon Kinberg, Drew Goddard, Jessica Chastain, and everyone else involved with either the book or the movie were able to bring that story to life, in one of Ridley Scott’s best in years no less. Some would disagree and they’re entitled to that if they so choose to. At least it did that for me, and I hope the same can be said for others who like it too.