Possible spoilers ahead!
When a massive Mars dust storm forces the Ares 3 crew to abandon their mission and evacuate the planet, astronaut/botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is struck by debris and knocked unconscious. Despite the violent storm, Ares 3 Captain Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) attempts to rescue Watney but when his vital monitors go dark, and with the rest of her team still at risk, Lewis makes the tough call, and orders the Ares 3 crew to launch.
Hours later, Watney wakes up critically injured and alone on Mars. After assessing the situation, Watney realizes he his only wat home is to wait until NASA’s next manned mission to the red planet arrives in three years.
The question now is: where will he get enough food and water to survive 1,000 days of isolation on an alien planet?
As Watney prepares for an extended stay on Mars, NASA scientists 30 million miles away take notice of his actions thanks to satellite images. Although they can’t communicate with the stranded astronaut, they also begin planning a rescue operation.
“The Martian” is based on the best-selling novel of the same name, by Andy Weir, “The Martian” was adapted for the big screen by writer Drew Goddard and director Ridley Scott. The director did a brilliant job with this movie, blending suspense, action, humor, science, and beautiful cinematography into an emotional character driven story.
I liked how Scott gave “The Martian” a sharp sense of humor, in order to counter balance the horrors of Watney’s ordeal. Like “Castaway,” Watney’s day-to-day routine (and struggles) are a mix of life-threatening moments, mundane problems, and moments of absolute joy.
The director spends a lot of time explaining the high-concept science ideas, equations, and engineering logistics, so that the audience can understand Watney’s circumstances at any given time. But I will say there’s a lot more science in the novel than in the movie. But I’m guessing that’s due to time restraints than anything else.
But if talking science isn’t your cup or tea, fear not. Throughout it’s nearly 2 1/2 run time, “The Martian” remains rooted in relatable human drama and emotional conflict. Even though I read the novel a few months ago, I was still glued to my seat as Watney clung to life and his sanity while NASA scrambled to devise the best (but extremely risky) plan for rescue.
Matt Damon, for his part, is terrific in the leading role. The novel paints Watney as an inventive and humorous and likable guy that makes the most of his situation. And Damon, nailed the character. Damon gave a performance that guaranteed the audience would root for Watney not our obligation, but because they want this guy to make it back home.
“The Martian” however, is not a one man show. This movie sports an all-star cast that includes Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover, Kristen Wiig (odd, I know), Sean Bean, and Benedict Wong,
“The Martian” makes masterful use out of its supporting cast with subtle scenes of character development that establish the key players without bogging down the main story. Every B-plot and nearly every single side character contributes in some way to help Watney survive.
With a stellar cast and a captivating story, “The Martian” is one of the year’s best movies. Sure, you’ll have to suspend disbelief here and there but the fact remains: Ridley Scott has delivered an entertaining film that takes cues from classic man vs. nature stories to tell a unique tale of one man’s day to day struggle for survival as an entire planet rallies behind him from millions of miles away.
“The Martian” final score: 9.5
Oh yeah, before I forget: I highly recommend reading the novel. If you read it before you see the movie or after, that’s up to you. But its got a few details that didn’t make it into the movie that you might enjoy. And in conclusion: