The Martian

 
Director: Ridley Scott.
Screenplay: Drew Goddard.
Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Michael Peña, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Aksel Hennie, Sebastian Stan, Benedict Wong, Mackenzie Davis, Donald Glover, Nick Mohammed, Shu Chen, Eddy Ko.

“I’m the first person to be alone on an entire planet”

Director Ridley Scott has always been somewhat of a mixed-bag and I think it’s fair to say that audiences don’t always connect with his material. However, science fiction has proven to be the genre where he has excelled the most. Alien and Blade Runner are rightly regarded as two of the best but his revisit to the Alien world with Prometheus didn’t hit the high benchmark he had set for himself. With this in mind, I entered into The Martian – his fourth science fiction endeavour – with a mixture of anticipation and reservation.
A manned mission on Mars goes awry when a storm hits and the crew has to abort the mission. During the evacuation, astronaut and botanist, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is struck and presumed dead. When he awakes, he find himself alone and stranded. With limited provisions and limited time, Watney must find a way to contact NASA and inform them of his survival.When the 2015 Golden Globes were announced a lot of people had questions as to why The Martian was categorised as a comedy. It seemed like a bizarre decision and looked like they were trying to shoehorn the film into a category so it had a chance of winning something. It eventually went on to take Best Picture and Damon Best Actor in a musical or comedy. A none too shabby 7 Oscar nominations followed and it would seem that The Martian had something to offer.

I’m sad to say that I must have missed that something. All the awards buzz surrounding the film lulled me into a false sense of security. To be perfectly frank, I expected something much better than what Ridley Scott delivers here. This should not have won at the Golden Globes or even been considered for the Oscars. This is not Best Picture caliber and as appealing as Damon is, there have been far worthier performances than his over the course of 2015. The most ridiculous of all, though, is Drew Goddard’s lazy and childlike screenplay. The Martian plays out like a colour-by-numbers affair. Everything is spelled out for us with Damon’s Mark Watney relaying his experiences to a video diary where he talks directly to the screen. As direct (or supposedly indirect) as it may be, Damon pretty much breaks the fourth wall on a consistent basis. By doing so, he basically takes us by the hand and walks us through the film by stating the obvious. This probably won’t bother many viewers but I found it lazy, contradictory and insulting storytelling. Admittedly, I never read Andy Weir’s book on which it’s based so I can’t comment on the structure he used in the original source material. However, what works in literary form doesn’t necessarily have to be the case in visual form. The beauty of film is that it’s a medium that can adopt a different approach but I got the impression that Scott and Goddard didn’t trust the intelligence of their audience and went for the safe option. The whole narrative structure felt patronising to me.Just to clarify my stance on this; The Martian is pleasantly entertaining. I’m not disputing that, but that’s all it is. For a space survival film of this kind, it has an odd feel to it. In some sense you can see why it was considered in the comedy category at the Globes. It’s playful and Damon gets to show his lighter, likeable side while under extreme pressure in a seriously grave situation. In his predicament you’d expect a little more angst and loneliness but no, not Damon’s Watney. He wisecracks about how he’ll “science the shit out of this” and is generally cool about the whole thing. As a result, the tone of The Martian is not as I expected. I expected the sombreness and desperation of Gravity or the torturous isolation of Tom Hanks in Cast Away but what I got was a happy-go-lucky, disco dancing Damon that fails to project any palpable sense of danger. What Scott does deliver on is his usual visionary approach to the genre. The production design of the Mars landscapes is undeniably impressive but ultimately this is yet another misfire from him. Prometheus was his fall from science-fiction grace and The Martian does nothing to change that. I doubt it’ll win any Oscars (at least not the major ones) but it really shouldn’t even be in the running at all. It’s mediocre and Ex-Machina was a far superior science fiction film which took a major snubbing in so many categories. Surely the academy ticked the wrong boxes when it came to voting between these films?If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs… then you obviously haven’t grasped the situation. Make of that what you will.Mark Walker

Trivia: The name of the mission is Ares 3, a homage to the Greek god of war, Ares, whose Roman name is Mars. The name of the large ship traveling back and forth between Earth and Mars is Hermes, named after the Greek god who was the messenger and emissary. Hermes was seen as the patron and protector of travelers.

Advertisements

45 Responses to “The Martian”

  1. Great review bro. Sounds like I did enjoy it more than you, but I was expecting to be blown away (as man were). I wasn’t. I do intend to see it again, but I do remember being underwhelmed by several things. Take the ending. It is such a by-the-books studio rah-rah finish. Maybe I expected too much, but it hasn’t left a lasting impression on me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cheers bro! From what I had heard beforehand, I honestly thought this was going to be another great sci-fi from Scott. One that might see him doing what he does best but I was really underwhelmed by the end result. Like I mention, it’s entertaining but nothing more than that. And I’m totally with you on the ending. I actually found that quite embarrassing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. i didn’t enjoy it. as you said, they didn’t make the drama feel like it was real. too much “pop” in the soundtrack made it feel like i shouldn’t take the problems seriously. i completely understood why the golden globes had it categorized as a comedy because the film itself wasn’t sure if it was a comedy or not. i also didn’t buy the premise that damon’s character had already determined that nothing could grow on mars, and then he grew stuff on mars.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I read the book before I saw the film. First, I was disappointed with the book! It was annoying that Watney was so casual about it all. Other than a rare reference to feeling lonely, I would have been shitting bricks trying to stay alive. Over and over he solves his problems and that part of the story was interesting to see how he’d create water, fix holes (good old duck tape!) etcetera. The movie followed the book religiously so I guess since I knew what was going to happen next there was no build up for me. I thought Ridley Scott’s filming was fine–it didn’t bother me like you, and when I watched it at home, David Bowie had just passed, so listening to his track “Starman” made me smile with pleasure.
    Otherwise, it was an entertaining film but not one I’d watch again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was all very casual, Cindy. Too casual for my liking. I enjoyed Damon’s performance and the look of the film was great but ultimately it amounted to very little. It’s nothing more than a Saturday afternoon family film and that’s not was I was signing on for. Hugely disappointing.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. THANK YOU! You echo my direct thoughts: enjoyable but highly overrated. I feel that most of The Martian’s praise comes from the incredibly low bar Ridley Scott has set for himself. It’s a middling crowd-pleaser at best that has nothing to add to the sci-fi genre.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Couldn’t agree more, Charles. A forgettable crowd pleaser. I really can’t get my head around all the awards nominations it has received. I wouldn’t nominate it for anything.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know a lot of people were upset this got nominated for Best Comedy at the Golden Globes. But with the movie’s overall tone and Damon’s constant wisecracks, The Martian hardly stressed the seriousness of its subject matter.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Absolutely, it actually was more comedy than drama. The wisecracks were funny and all but it wasn’t what I wanted. This could have been Damon’s chance to claim the screen in a torturous role like Hanks’ in Cast Away but he played it more like a stand-up comedy routine.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Martian could have been a really compelling survival story but just ends up making stale disco jokes. The comedy in the movie really started to grate me after a while.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, the laid back attitude of Watney started to bother me too. Damon was good but he’s an actor that’s capable of more and this was, ultimately, a missed opportunity.

        Like

  5. Interesting review. I didn’t find that bad at all and the entertaining script was the most… well, entertaining in the film. True, it didn’t live up to all the hype and it surely was worse than Ex Machina but after reading your review it feels like it was really bad. What did you think of Gravity’s script? I found the dialogue/monologue horrible in that one but then again visuals and tension made up for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just found that the script pandered to much to the audience. It didn’t test me or force me to think for myself. I like science fiction that manages to draw you into it and have you questioning the concept or events. Ex Machina was this type for me and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner is the one to beat.
      Totally with you on Gravity. I thought the story was pretty poor but the visual experience was absolutely stunning.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hmm… I guess it did, can’t really remember well anymore after seeing this in the beginning of October or so. That really tells how unmemorable The Martian is. And also, I’m not a big fan of scifi (like Blade Runner which to me was a huge let down after hearing for years how great it is and watching it only few years ago for the first time) in traditional sense, so I think it went down easily for me and didn’t feel like it took the audience as bunch of idiots.

        Like

      • You don’t like Blade Runner?? Man, that’s the ultimate sci-fi! That said, I’m more drawn to films like that and I thought Interstellar was fantastic as well. I prefer sci-fi that challenges you. I can see why The Martian was well received as it appeals to many viewers across the board but it wasn’t for me. I was entertained and it deserves credit for that but I wanted more from it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I actually think I should give Blade Runner another go because I think I was just let down because of the HUGE hype of it. I loved Interstellar, although after seeing it for the second time, it had lost some of its glory.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Blade Runner is one of those films. It was criticised heavily when it was released only for it to grow a cult following. Now, it’s highly regarded which has led to massive anticipation for some only for them to be disappointed. It’s one of those films that can polarise an audience.

        I’ve only seen Interstellar once myself but I really hope it can hold its magic for another viewing.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Definitely a very different review than most. I enjoyed it, but seeing it once was probably more than enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Nice one, man! I actually really got a kick out of the movie, but I totally see where you’re coming from—you never get that sense of impending doom that most great survival films get across. That said, his nonchalant approach to the entire situation is what I really liked about the movie, so that’s probably why I enjoyed it so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • To be fair, man. I thought Damon was very entertaining. As much as I don’t see it as an Oscar worthy performance, it was a role I enjoyed him playing. It just wasn’t the tone I wanted for the film overall, you know? Can’t fault Damon’s efforts at all, though.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s better than Joy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ahaha! That it is! 🙂

      Like

      • Joking aside, I actually quite enjoyed this – same as you really…pleasingly entertaining indeed. As an adventure/disaster/survival movie it hits the right notes at the right time and I got into the story enough. But for the Academy to pick this for Best Picture over something like Carol though, or even Inside Out or Love And Mercy or dozens of other films, is just ridiculous. But I should shut up about it – I’m just writing a load of ramble at the moment about how I’m sick to death of all the Oscar talk, even though I’ve been joining in! Damon’s charismatic enough to carry this kind of thing, but I thought the supporting cast were underused. Way too many famous faces trying to make the most of their two or three minutes in the limelight.

        Liked by 1 person

      • “Entertaining” is far as I could go with positivity here, man. I really wasn’t impressed with it. I found the tone way off course and it almost felt like you were treading water for the film to draw to a close and to witness what you knew along – everything will be fine in the end.

        Don’t get me started on the Oscar noms. Jesus! What the fuck? Why this and not Ex Machina?

        Like

      • Yeah, it’s pretty obvious this was going to have a feelgood ending. Typical Hollywood though: Watney is fine and mentally stable. He spends several years on Mars and is still fine and mentally stable at the end. Off he goes into teaching without a care in the world. Here’s some Abba…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Haha! “Here’s some ABBA”. That about sums it up. That made me genuinely chuckle there. That could have just been my review and saved me some time 🙂

        Like

  9. Your’s is the first review that saw the film like I did. I totally missed the hype, the fourth-wall breaking irritated me to no end… and the humour… he is trying to survive and the script has some top lines like you one you quoted, ‘I’m going to science the shit out of this’. Sounds like something a 16 year old would say, but that’s just me

    Excellent analysis

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cheers buddy! Yeah, it was hard to take the whole thing seriously when Damon’s character didn’t seem all that fussed about it. I just couldn’t go along with the tone of it. It didn’t work.

      Like

  10. Excellent write up Mark! I think we see eye to eye on this. Also, I agree – Ex Machina is hands down the superior film in every which manner and deserves so much more attention and credit than it is getting.

    I was alright with this movie after watching it, I think I even gave it a 7. But the more I think about it, the less I think it deserves even that.

    That being said, this movie was okay. I think it is way too overhyped. Really. Damon was excellent here and highly entertaining, and watching him and the disco music was pretty cool, but the script was lazy, and everything happening on Earth really just brought the whole film crashing to its knees, in my opinion. The movie does not scare, you know everything is going to work out, you don’t get too involved, a lot of the cast was underused… I can go on for a while. The movie does look pretty though, so I guess we must throw in a bone there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The film looks great and Damon is very likeable but that’s really all that worked for me. As much as Damon done a fine job, his character didn’t really convince. How this has overshadowed Ex Machina in the awards stakes is hugely unfair. I’m really starting to get pissed of by how inconsistent Ridley Scott is. One minute he delivers a fine piece and then he undoes his good work by delivering something mediocre. This pattern of his has been going on for years now.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I agree about Ex Machina being the superior sci-go picture, although I must admit I’ve seen this twice now and I had a blast (to use a bad pun). It’s a great story told effortlessly well by a director who had been treading water for years.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I kept expecting Sandra Bullock to eventually float by. LOL !

    Liked by 1 person

  13. abbiosbiston Says:

    I liked this a bit more than you did… but not that much.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Well written review Mark. I’ve heard a very mixed reception about this movie that has me curious to see what my personal opinion on it will be.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I found it a fun film but it’s not Oscar worthy no.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: