Isolation is a scary thing, but being stranded on a planet 140 million miles away from home with a hostile environment and no one to speak to is unimaginable. Based on the sci-fi novel by Andy Weir, The Martian is another survival story, but what makes it unique is the drama that unfolds back on earth, where the brightest minds on our planet collaborate with the stranded astronaut to bring him back. After failures like Exodus and The Counselor, The Martian is an excellent comeback for director Ridley Scott.
Botanist Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead when he is lost in a tempestuous storm on Mars while the rest of his crew abort their mission and leave for Earth. However, Watney wakes up injured and must now either give up and die, or use his knowledge and the scarce resources at his disposal to extend his stay enough for another Mars mission from Earth to reach him. He chooses the latter.
I was not very impressed with Mark Watney’s dialogue in the scenes where he keeps talking to the camera, which he uses for logging his survival on Mars. Some of it was amusing as intended, but the rest just seemed unnecessarily cheeky. Even Matt Damon couldn’t pull those bold dialogues off. Matt Damon’s performance is frankly disappointing, as it feels too self-conscious and lacks the panache he had in those Bourne movies or even Interstellar. For a movie that’s about survival on Mars, there are not as many hurdles or setbacks for Watney as I would expect. In fact, space agencies on Earth face more complications than he does and once he establishes communication, it’s just following instructions.
There was a time in Hollywood when every major release had to be 3D, and filmmakers didn’t bother about the quality of the 3D as long as it made the extra money. Fortunately, that time has passed. It’s evident that there has been a sharp decline in the number of 3D movies and only filmmakers who have a firm understanding of the technology seem to be venturing into the realm. Thankfully, Ridley Scott is one of these filmmakers and The Martian, like Scott’s previous 3D flick Prometheus, guarantees superior 3D experience. Martian is a fantastic survival story, but not just because of what happens on Mars, but mostly because of how NASA and other space agencies on Earth face the challenge. There are secrets and lies, there is politics, betrayal, mutiny and major decision making going on in these offices and it’s just a pleasure to watch how these crucial decisions affect one man stranded millions of miles away. With immense gravity of the situation pressing in on you and executed with pure finesse, the climax is definitely the most beautiful, gripping and tense part of the movie. Although I was not impressed with the leading man as much as I expected, all other actors on the roster have performed exceptionally well. Jessica Chastain as the commander of the mission, Jeff Daniels as the director of NASA, and Chiwetel Ejiofor as the mission director are the ones that stand out, while Donald Glover offers some good laughs while he explains his rescue mission idea to NASA.
The Martian is a movie about optimism in the face of overwhelming odds and lives up to its theme. It benefits from an amazing script, talented leads, and skillful direction but is bogged down only by its overly self-conscious dialogues every now and then. The Martian receives 8.5/10 from me. It’s one of the best movies this year. Go and watch it in 3D.