Earth to Mars

When an unexpected storm hits Mars, a group of astronauts make the call to leave behind one of their crewmates whom they believe to be dead. Unbeknownst to them, Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon,) is alive and well...and now stranded on a desolate planet with the hope of a rescue several years off. Before I proceed, no I'm not talking about Matt Damon's character in Interstellar. It just happens to be a coincidence that these two characters he played found themselves in such similar circumstances! And that Jessica Chastain happened to appear in both movies too.

For the third consecutive Fall movie season, an astronaut-themed adventure is out in cinemas. In 2013, we had Gravity, the Sandra Bullock led movie about a woman lost in space (review HERE)... then in 2014, Christopher Nolan's grand opus Interstellar graced the screen (review HERE) and now in 2015 Ridley Scott gives us an adaptation of The Martian. For films tackling such similar subject matter, each director chose vastly different aspects to prioritize, and thus the three films are actually quite varied in what they achieve. In Gravity, Alfonso Cuaron sacrificed characters that were fleshed out for the sake of the audience getting swallowed up in the suspense of the situation. Here in The Martian, Ridley Scott does the polar opposite. Our lead, Mark Watney has plenty of personality and heart, but because he's so capable the audience rarely finds themselves on the edge of their seat in desperation for his situation. Instead, they're too busy laughing at his wisecracks.

In a case such as this, it really comes down to personal preference. Some might prefer the constant tension Gravity provides (and might find The Martian disappointing in that regard,) while others bemoan what that film lacks. As someone who values character and story above almost all when it comes to filmmaking, I found The Martian to be an incredibly winning film and almost a breath of fresh air for the genre. It's the most un-Ridley Scott movie that Ridley Scott has ever made. It does not take itself too seriously as there is a real humor and personality to this film. What's missing though that Gravity and Interstellar accomplished, is the anxiety we feel over the life and death situations represented. At a film that clocks in at nearly two and a half hours, you almost always feel like the situation will come to a happy solution... which means that some of runtime tends to drag. Scott does a good job for the most part of moving things along by intercutting between Watney and his adventures on Mars, with the NASA crew back in Houston trying to figure out the mess on their hands. But at some point in the middle, you can't help but want to move forward with the story. Luckily, that feeling doesn't last for long, and Matt Damon's likability carries you through any slumps there might be.

The Martian is a solid space journey buoyed by Matt Damon and a strong supporting cast surrounding him. It has the humor and heart to make an impression and is more rewarding in the end because of it. Because I was invested in these characters, I was much more emotional about their outcomes...even if I wasn't stressed out about them the whole movie long. The journey is much more enjoyable if you can appreciate the characters you're taking it with. EMILY RATING: 8.5/10


Sarah said...

Sounds good to me! I prefer not to be stressed out by the movies I watch these days!

Johanna said...

I agree with the drag part in the middle because I'm not a science nerd. Niel completely disagreed. I loved this movie, one of the best I've seen in a long time. I felt that it was an analogy for each of our own lives.

The mix of humor and tension was great. There were some tense moments, but the came unexpectedly because you were so lulled into thinking the story will go down a smooth path.

I liked the politics behind the situation and how amazingly even though they addressed the global responses, it was a very personal and small story. Unlike Gravity which mainly focused on one person, yet, oddly enough, never became personal.