The Martian (2015) Movie Review

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Yes, I may have seen this in cinema and only getting around to talking about it now, but it’s better now than not, so…The Martian.

Set a few decades in the future, when NASA finally starts sending men to Mars (Something they plan to do in real life), our story centres mostly around an Astronaut named Mark Watney (played by Mmmmmatt Daaaaaamon, in his 2nd space movie in 2 years, only this time he’s not trying to kill Matthew McConaughey) who was presumed dead by his crew mates when a large piece of debris smacked into him during what is effectively a hurricane/sand storm on Mars, and they lose track of him while they evacuate the planet.  Some time after this, Watney wakes up, realises he’s alone, and has no way to communicate with Earth.  The next space mission to Mars is 4 years away, and instead of giving up to die, he decides to live as long as possible, by starting a farm inside their Lab (using a combination of Mars Dust, potatoes, and the “space bathroom”), as well as continuing with his work as a Botanist (That’s what his job was for this mission), and finding ways to communicate with earth.  All while trying to remain sane from the entertainment that his crew mates left behind, which includes cheesy ’70s sit-coms, and Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) leaving him with her…music collection.

This review will be a little different, as my view on the movie is also tainted.  Because much like when I reviewed the Hobbit Trilogy, I read the novel of The Martian, and can only compare the Book and the movie.  Don’t be surprised if I make comparisons between the 2.

Lets start off with the acting and characters.  The acting in The Martian is very good.  But at the same time, nobody in particular really stood out as exceptional.  The truth is, a majority of the characters presented in the film (rather than the book) could have been acted by nearly anybody, as long as they maintain the visual characteristics mentioned in the book (such as Venkat Kapoor (Vincent in the movie) being Hindu, and therefore quite likely Indian American), or so it seems.  Matt Damon was a very good choice for Mark, Jeff Daniels was a great Teddy, The Ares 3 crew was well chosen, and when I heard that Kristen Wiig was playing Annie, I thought to myself “Perfect”.  However, the performances themselves were mostly quite bland and stiff.  Due to the fact that the film is a 12A (UK), a lot of jokes and lines in the book ended up being left out, making Kristen Wiig’s version of Annie a bit disappointing, as she’s meant to curse like a sailor and question the social lives of these scientists’ college days.  As for Matt Damon as Mark Watney…Mark’s from Chicago, and in the book his sense of humour helps make his diary entries such a great page-turner, even if you know nothing about science and technology.  The character is hilarious, and if the film was at least a 15 (UK), this film could have been legendary in this department.

The visual presentation of The Martian is…excellent.  Really excellent.  Especially when you consider NASA chose to write/proof-read a lot of the script in order to maintain as close an accuracy to real life as possible.  In this department, the movie sells itself brilliantly, and I have nothing bad to say about it.  Excellent cinematography, excellent location choices, and a great feeling of authenticity throughout the film.

Harry Gregson – Williams (Shrek, Narnia, every Metal Gear Solid game since ‘2) composed the music, and does it very well.  Creating modern-sounding themes that are at times menacing, incorporating orchestras with some electronic beats, and also creating a slight ’80s synth sound that works wonderfully in the scenes of adventure, discovery and journey.  As far as the “other” music is concerned, I think it has some great stuff…even if Mark hates it (At least it wasn’t Nickelback…actually, that would be hilarious).

What about the story?  Well, compared to the book, obviously, it’s very stripped down, with most of the jokes, details, and even the perils have been taken out.  The film feels a lot safer than the book, which says something about its execution.  For instance, we’re provided with Mark’s journeys, but we’re not shown the times when the MAV gets stuck.  Plus the Science/Technology aspect isn’t that well explained in the movie, but is really well explained in the book.  To the point that I think 12 year olds seeing the movie are going to be either bored or confused.  Which is another reason why some films are 15 or 18.  Sometimes it isn’t (just) about the bad language, heavy violence, sex, drugs, alcohol and smoking.  Sometimes a film is a 15 or 18 because the themes and subject matter are difficult to understand when you aren’t “levelled up” enough to theorise or endorse it.

Would I recommend The Martian?  The book?  Definitely!  The Movie?  Not as much as the book, but they did a good job squeezing in as much as they could into 2 and a half hours.  Due to how much was left out, a part of me is hoping that the theatrical version is just a heavily cut version, and that an uncut version that competes with the Tolkien movies would really boost the quality of this film’s justifications.  But if this isn’t the case, then I consider this film to be 1 full of missed opportunities, just because they wanted to cater something quite complicated to children.  I can say more, but I’ll leave it for now.

Acting: ***1/2

Characters: **** (****1/2 in the book)

Story: ***1/2 (****3/4 for the book)

Music: ****1/2

Visual Presentation: *****

Cinematography: *****

Humour: *** (****3/4 in book)

Overall: ****

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