Release date: October 2nd, 2015
Dir. Ridley Scott
Starring: Matt Damon (Mark Watney), Jessica Chastain (Melissa Lewis), Michael Pena (Teddy Sanders), Jeff Daniels (Rick Martinez), Kristen Wiig (Annie Montrose), Sean Bean (Mitch Henderson), Kate Mara (Beth Johanssen), Sebastian Stan (Chris Beck), Donald Glover (Rich Purnell), Mackenzie Davis (Mindy Park), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Vincent Kapoor), Aksel Hennie (Alex Vogel)
I have to state that before watching this movie I had a strong idea of what this movie was going to be about because I read the book. Then add in the fact that I kept hearing that this movie was oh so great. I had some preconceptions going in, but that didn’t mean that I wasn’t able to enjoy the movie. I did feel that this movie was overhyped. The claims of it’s grandeur just didn’t resonate by the time that I saw the full film. It was good. It explored some interesting territory about surviving. It never felt particularly tense, but I found myself more curious and amused. It was both humorous and even managed to bring my stone eyes to tear up. The movie is a roller coaster that I really enjoyed.
There is a reason that I generally like to make sure that I watch a movie before I read a book. The saying that the “book is better than the movie” well that stands true here. The book is most certainly better than the movie. The movie gave Mark Watney problems that he needed to solve, but the movie didn’t make Watney confront as many complications. Time constraints I understand, they cut out some of the redundant and slightly less visual problems that he had. While the movie was filled with humor, it also lacked some of the humorous charm that was present in the book that could have been easily translated to film. It’s something that I couldn’t ignore.
This is a movie about humanity and a single person’s will to survive. The problem with that is we never got to feel the real emotional weight of what Watney was going through until the end. This is in part because of Watney’s disposition. He makes light of situations. He never gave himself the chance to wallow or be really angry. Sure we saw frustration, but it was always lit up by a joke. it really is a refreshing take on the situation, but that made certain things less dire. That changed later in the movie when we saw some of the most dire shots. We saw how absolutely dangerous and how it effected him by the end. It is this emotional human journey that Watney and the others have to deal with that is truly the heart of this film and where it delivers. It makes you actually feel good about humanity in the midst of all the awful.
The humor in the movie really worked for me. It was quirky like Watney, but it also felt really accessible. Watney is consistently delivering humor as his coping, as well as it just being part of his personality. He’s a bit of a nerd and many of the things that come out of his mouth are prefectly timed and completely relatable. Just when a situation would get tense of serious, he would lighten it up. Then there was also the character Donald Glover played, who was a bit spastic and hyper focused. It felt odd for me because it felt like he was channelling Abed again rather than making the character his own. That said he still brought a smile to my face a couple of times.
Speaking of accessible, this movie is science fiction, but because it was focused on the human. The science fiction was toned down in the sense that they didn’t really focus on the science. There were a few explanations, but nothing complicated. When anything did arise that was more complex, it was waved off as humorous. And boy was this movie accessible. I can’t think of a single way that this movie could be distancing in any way.
The one weird sensation that I got from this movie was the sense of length. This is not a short movie, but it’s also not overly long. I felt that it was long. That said I enjoyed what was going on and the progression, but I just couldn’t put out of my mind that certain scenes had been going on for a long time. That could be considered a knock, but that sense of length never actually felt boring. It was just something that I ended up feeling aware of.
This movie is marketed as a thriller. I can see why, sort of. You never really know what is going to happen next. You are watching to see how he is going to survive. For that reason alone I can see why it would be marketed as a thriller. However, I didn’t feel a constant sense of dread. There were some moments that felt particularly tense, but they were few and far between. There were moments where you felt like holding your breath to see how it played out. And then that tension often disappated with no sense of payoff either positive or negative. It was another hurdle completed and they had to focus on the next one so you never got the chance to wallow in a failure or celebrate the success for long. That certainly helped with keeping the story moving and keeping it entertaining, but it made it lack some of that emotional kick.
I need to take a moment to talk about the characters. We get all sorts of characters. Some that or more sympathetic, some that are more frantic. There really are a whole, bunch, but I felt like we never got to know anyone really well. Particularly the large cast that was present both in space and on Earth. They all felt like people, but not like people that I felt I knew. So it is a major credit that these characters felt genuine and you could imagine these people being people you encounter. The problem is that other than Watney and maybe (this is a stretch) Vincent, you just didn’t get connected. Heck, I’d even argue that sometimes it was hard to connect to Watney, even though I thoroughly enjoyed him. This is largely because it is such a large cast and they were there simply to play roles in this situation rather than be people that you were supposed to care about. It would have been nice though.
At the end of the day, I enjoyed The Martian quite a bit. As I mentioned previously, it takes a lot for me to cry in a movie and I definitely teared up in this despite knowing how things would go. I will admit that having read the book, I felt jaded and was hoping for a little more than I actually got. I enjoyed myself. I would recommend it to others. That’s all that matters in the end. This was a solid movie. Also that Council of Elrond joke will be sure to get a chuckle from fans of the Lord of the Rings movies.