The Martian (2015) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

The Martian (2015) Directed by Ridley Scott. With Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Askel Hennie, Benedict Wong and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

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Widely speaking, Ridley Scott’s return to science-fiction was considered a rough landing when the much-hyped Prometheus was released in 2012. Fast-forward a few years and the legendary director returned to the genre for another crack with The Martian, a Drew Goddard adaptation of Andy Weir’s novel of the same name.

Matt Damon is Mark Watney, an astrobotanist left behind and assumed dead on a mission to Mars. Watney is forced to summon his scientific know-how to fight back against the main antagonist of the piece…nature.

It’s like Robinson Crusoe On Mars (you have to be really cool to have seen that one) meets Apollo 13 as Damon “sciences the shit” out of many a dilemma. These intersecting snippets of science and science-fiction provide some of the film’s strongest moments.

Despite having no on-screen acting partner for the majority of the film, Damon conveys a sense of humourous optimism as he fights a seemingly impossible battle for survival. The writing is clever to have Mark address the audience directly as he logs his alone time in the form of video diaries. If there is one itch I could not scratch, it would be in the casting of Damon. My overriding feeling is that a lesser known actor would have deepened a sense of peril.

Damon’s struggle on the red planet alone could be enough to make a solid 80-minute film, but The Martian is told from three perspectives. On Earth, brains storm away for a possible rescue angle while Damon’s mission colleagues, led by Jessica Chastain are on standby for any potential attempts to save the former Private Ryan.

Visually, the film is occasionally sweeping with grand vistas of Mars serving as a reminder of the simultaneous beauty and hostility of the universe. As Guardians of the Galaxy previously demonstrated, outer space and a 1970’s pop soundtrack make an effective juxtaposition. Damon isn’t just stranded on Mars with limited oxygen and food supplies, he’s also got Donna Summer to contend with.

As with any Ridley Scott project, the art design is convincing. From the interiors of the spacecrafts and vehicles to the screen layouts in mission control, Scott is an expert world builder, or in the case, world tweaker. He recognises the devil is in the detail when it comes to absorbing audiences into a universe alternate or futuristic to their own. He achieves it well and without fuss.

With a strong supporting cast featuring appearances from Kristen Wiig and Mackenzie Davies…and sturdy performances from the likes of Chiwetel Ejiofor and Jessica Chastain, The Martian represents Ridley Scott working at the upper end of his game. “Get your ass to Mars!”.

3.5/5

About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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15 Responses to The Martian (2015) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. Drew says:

    I didn’t expect this movie to be as humorous as it was. So many similar films focus on the darkness of being stranded in space so it was a breath of fresh air to see The Martian do something different. It worked so well, especially with Damon at the helm. Great review, Gareth.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you Drew, you’re right, it was refreshing to have so much levity in the script. A lot of us use humour to handle difficult situations, so it’s good to see a big film make acknowledgement of that.

  2. filmfunkel says:

    What a fun read!. Donna Summer as contentious antagonist – that’s brilliant. XD

  3. Hey you forgot about Sebastian Stan! Great review, Gareth!!! Scott did a fantastic job creating the world, like you said, from the novel. If you have time I really recommend the novel, too! 🙂

  4. At first, I thought it was another Jessica-Chastain-in-a-Nolanesque-sci-fi-slash-action-film film, but it turned out to be pretty good. Nice review.

    (Ey, Gareth, can you review “Me and Earl and The Dying Girl”? It’s a really good film.)

    • garethrhodes says:

      Hi Robin, I’m eager to see Me, Earl and the Dying Girl – I notice the reviews are very positive. And yes, Chastain is grabbing parts with all the top directors. She seems to be on a roll.

  5. Chris Evans says:

    Excellent review Gareth! Saw this at the cinema but didn’t get around to reviewing it myself, thoroughly enjoyed it – I’ve even bought Andy Weir’s novel (the film is surprisingly very close, even directly lifting whole paragraphs of dialogue).

    You’re right about Ridley Scott’s talent for world building and the visuals are indeed beautiful, a great effort for a man now in his eighties. Can’t wait to see how the Prometheus sequel turns out.

    Oh, and glad I qualify as cool because I can confirm that I have seen Robinson Crusoe on Mars!

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you Chris, it’s great to hear from you. I’m glad to hear you that enjoyed this one too. Isn’t it incredible to see someone like Ridley Scott, working so brilliantly at a time in his life when everyone expects a person to be packing up. I’m with you on the Prometheus sequel too, I was in the minority of people who loved the film.

      Haha!! Welcome to the cool club. 😎

  6. Dude the cleaner says:

    I do love this film. very well written plus the writer has done his research that help. Nice review.

  7. This film was fantastic! I reviewed it over at my blog too – one of the best films I’ve seen recently! 🙂

  8. Loved this movie, was surprised but impressed by the humor, and loved the cinematography on Mars.

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