Tuesday, June 07, 2016

The Martian

Based on the novel by Andy Weir, The Martian is the story of an astronaut who is accidentally left for dead on Mars during a manned mission where he struggles to survive in the planet while the people at NASA discover he’s alive as they try to figure out how to get him back home with the man’s crew dealing with guilt of leaving him behind. Directed by Ridley Scott and screenplay by Drew Goddard, the film explores the world of science where people on Earth find a way to try and bring this astronaut home as the man himself would try to find ways to survive on the planet using what he has in his head. Starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Benedict Wong, Michael Pena, Sebastian Stan, Kate Mara, Mackenzie Davis, Askel Hennie, Sean Bean, Donald Glover, Eddy Ko, Chen Shu, and Jeff Daniels. The Martian is an adventurous and engaging film from Ridley Scott.

During a manned mission to Mars where an attempt to leave during a strong dust wind where an astronaut is struck by debris and is unfortunately left for dead by his crew. The film revolves around this astronaut who finds himself stuck on Mars aware that it is likely that it will take four years for another spaceship to come in and rescue him with the little rations he has where he is forced to find ways to survive. Meanwhile back on Earth, NASA who for two months believed the man to be dead make a discovery that he is alive through satellite photos as they try to find a way to get him back home but a lot of things are happening where they don’t even tell his crew for months. It’s a film that isn’t just about survival but also the need to rescue a man stranded on Mars where he is forced to left to his own devices yet would unveil what he is able to do to try and survive for the next few years.

Drew Goddard’s screenplay has a very unique narrative that moves back and forth in not just what astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) does to survive on Mars where he would grow potatoes and make water in the planet thanks to his skills as a botanist. It also showcases what is happening in NASA where they try to figure out how long he can survive as well as how to create a rescue mission. The Earth portion of the narrative also play into the world of politics as NASA’s director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) ponders the financial cost as well as the risks while he also has to tell the truth to the public that Watney is alive after declaring him dead during the botched mission months earlier. For NASA, the news of Watney being alive has become a public relations nightmare for the company where it also shows what is happening behind the scenes where they also need to get help from other sources including rival space exploration companies.

At the space vessel Hermes, there is a subplot that involves Watney’s crew led by Commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) who, along with the crew, are consumed with guilt as they’re returning home to Earth where they play a key part in the film’s third act as it relates to the rescue. While they’re aware that the journey back to Mars will take another 18 months with a special booster created by this rival company. Commander Lewis and the crew prefer to take that risk knowing that if it goes wrong, they will all die. Especially as their mission director Mitch Henderson (Sean Bean) gave them the option as he is aware of the risks not just in space but also the financial risks where he finds himself sparring with Sanders since Henderson wanted to tell Lewis and the crew about Watney once the news broke. It all play into that world of politics and when Watney who would finally communicate with NASA’s Mars mission director Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who revealed what has been going on. Not surprisingly as there’s frustration where Kapoor and several other scientists try to find solutions where it would be a young astrodynamicist in Rich Purnell (Donald Glover) who would create what the Commander Lewis and her crew have to do as does Watney.

Ridley Scott’s direction is definitely quite vast for the world he creates not just in Mars but also outer space while also maintain a sense of ground for the fact that the film is also set on Earth. With many of the exterior scenes on Mars shot at Wadi Rum in Jordan with several interiors shot in Hungary, the film plays into a world that is quite large where Scott used a lot of wide shots for these exteriors in Mars as it has this air of mystique. Even in the some of the interiors in the base where Watney would have to live in and grow crops as Scott would also use small video cameras such as the Go-pro cameras to document everything Watney is going through. It has this air of the documentary in the film where it plays into what happens if a man is stranded alone in Mars having to survive by what he knows.

The direction is also intimate not just for the scenes inside the Hermes vessel but also on Earth where there’s a lot of discussion and squabbling going on about what to do. Scott chooses to keep things simple throughout the film by not going for anything flashy though he would utilize bits of style in some tracking and dolly shots but keep it to a minimum. The scenes at the Hermes vessel are quite entrancing to play into the world of this space vessel but also to show everyone trying to move on despite carrying this weight of guilt. While Scott is aware that it’s a sci-fi adventure film with a lot of drama, he knows that it’s a film that shouldn’t take itself too seriously by displaying the fact that Watney is kind of goofy. Even as there’s a recurring gag to the fact that the only thing playing at the base on Mars is 70s disco music that Watney hates yet it was chosen by Commander Lewis. All of which plays into a film that is about doing what is right no matter how complicated it can be. Overall, Scott crafts a riveting yet sprawling film about a man accidentally stuck on Mars and trying to survive as he awaits rescue.

Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski does brilliant work with the film‘s cinematography in creating some filters for the exterior scenes set on Mars as well as providing distinctive looks for the scenes at the Hermes space vessel and on Earth. Editor Pietro Scalia does excellent work with the editing as it‘s mostly straightforward with a few stylistic cuts for the big action sequences as well as a stylish montage sequence about the rescue planning. Production designer Arthur Max, with supervising art director Marc Homes and set decorators Celia Bobak and Zoltan Horvath, does amazing work with the look of the moon base and many of the interiors in that base as well as the space vessel interiors and rooms at NASA. Costume designer Janty Yates does nice work with the costumes in the way the astronaut suits look as well as the clothes of the people on Earth. Hair/makeup designer Tina Earnshaw and hair/makeup supervisor Csilla Blake-Horvath does terrific work with the look of Watney late in the film as he struggles to survive with the limited resources he had.

The visual effects work of Chris Lawrence, Anders Langlands, Richard Stammers, and Steve Warner is fantastic for the look of outer space as well as the Hermes space vessel along with some set dressing for the Mars exteriors. Sound designers Michael Fentum and Oliver Tarney do superb work with the sound in the way the dust winds sound in and out of the base as well as some of the computers and such along with the sparse and more natural sounds for the scenes in Earth. The film’s music by Harry Gregson-Williams is wonderful for its orchestral-based score that has some bombast in some of its intense moments while being low-key in its somber moments. The film’s soundtrack is definitely a joy to listen to not just in the fact that it consists a lot of classic 70s pop and disco music from the likes of ABBA, the Hues Corporation, Donna Summers, Thelma Houston, the O’Jays, Gloria Gaynor, and Vickie Robinson as well as inspired usage of David Bowie’s Starman.

The casting by Carmen Cuba and Nina Gold is incredible as it features some notable small roles from Eddy Ko and Chen Su as key officials from the Chinese Space program, Donald Glover as the astrodynamicisist Rich Purnell who comes up with an idea for the Hermes to travel back to Mars, Benedict Wong as a Jet Propulsion Laboratory director who tries to come up with ideas in saving Watney, and Mackenzie Davis as the NASA satellite planner Mindy Park who would be the one to discover that Watney is alive through satellite photos. Other notable small roles as members of the Ares III team includes Askel Hennie as the team’s navigator/chemist Dr. Alex Vogel, Sebastian Stan as flight surgeon Dr. Chris Beck, Kate Mara as the system operator Beth Johanssen, and Michael Pena as the team’s pilot Rick Martinez who is Watney’s closest friend.

Chiwetel Ejiofor is superb as the Mars mission director Vincent Kapoor who would be the first to communicate with Watney as he realizes with the severity of what is happening as he tries to figure out what to do to save him. Sean Bean is fantastic as the Ares III mission director Mitch Henderson who wanted to tell his crew that Watney is alive as he spars with Sanders about what to do. Kristen Wiig is terrific as NASA’s media relations director Annie Montrose who tries to smooth over all of the bad publicity NASA is facing as well as figure out how to save face for NASA. Jeff Daniels is excellent as NASA’s director Teddy Sanders who is trying to see anyway NASA can save money but also wanting to do what is right with caution. Jessica Chastain is amazing as Commander Melissa Lewis as the Ares III leader who deals with guilt of leaving Watney behind as she would later try to figure out every scenario into getting him back as a way to do what is right. Finally, there’s Matt Damon in a phenomenal performance as Mark Watney as the astronaut who is accidentally stranded on Mars following a freak accident where he manages to find a way to survive with his expertise on botany and wit while also providing some charm, humor, and humility to his role as it’s one of Damon’s finest performances.

The Martian is a spectacular film from Ridley Scott that features an incredible performance from Matt Damon. Along with a strong ensemble supporting cast, dazzling visuals, compelling themes on science, and a fun music soundtrack. The film isn’t just a sci-fi adventure film that doesn’t play dumb as well as reveal what might happen on a manned mission to Mars. It also showcases how someone is willing to survive with a positive attitude despite his hatred for disco. In the end, The Martian is a magnificent film from Ridley Scott.

Ridley Scott Films: (The Duellists) - Alien - Blade Runner - (Legend) - (Someone to Watch Over Me) - (Black Rain) - (Thelma & Louise) - (1492: Conquest of Paradise) - (White Squall) - (G.I. Jane) - (Gladiator) - (Hannibal) - (Black Hawk Down) - (Matchstick Men) - (Kingdom of Heaven) - (A Good Year) - (American Gangster) - (Body of Lies) - (Robin Hood) - Prometheus - (The Counselor) - (Exodus) - (Alien: Covenant) -All the Money in the World

© thevoid99 2016


Brittani Burnham said...

I'm so glad you liked this. I loved both the movie and the book.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I thought you were going to run out of superlatives for the cast!

Kevin Powers said...

You really nailed it when discussing the performances. All brought their game, particularly Ejiofor and Daniels. I really liked Sean Bean and Donald Glover in their small roles as well. The balancing act of Drew Goddard's script is quite amazing as well. Just re-watched this the other night, and it really held up just as well as it did in the theater. Glad you dug it!

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-It was better than I thought it would be as well as the fact that it was funny. I just love to see Matt ranting about Jessica Chastain's taste in music.

@assholeswatchingmovies.com-I thought so too. It was tough to come up with a lot of things but this is why the film is so fucking good.

@Kevin-This is where an ensemble film works where you have actors and give them a role but also make sure they get enough moments to stand out and that is why it worked. It's definitely one of Ridley Scott's better films.

Zach Murphy said...

Nice review.

The Martian is definitely a great example of a well-utilized cast and ensemble of characters.

- Zach (http://fadetozach.blogspot.com/)

thevoid99 said...

@Zach Murphy-Thank you. I think Scott took some cues from Robert Altman for the film as far as handling that massive ensemble is concerned. When you have that collective amount of talent, don't waste a single one.

Dell said...

Just watched this a few days ago, myself. I'll be honest. I liked it, but didn't love it. Felt like a lighter version of Gravity to me. Matt Damon was great, though, and that's what saved it.

thevoid99 said...

@Wendell-Matt Damon is awesome in the film as I just love that he isn't afraid to be a bit smug but in a funny way while also having his tantrums. Funny Matt Damon is $$$$$$$$$.