Reel Talk: ‘The Martian’ is a Solid, Surprisingly Funny Space Adventure Movie
If you haven’t heard, The Martian broke all sorts of box office records last weekend, and for good reason. Directed by Ridley Scott, this movie is easily the best of the 2000s; it focuses on astronaut Mark Watney’s (Matt Damon) attempts to survive while stranded on Mars after a mission gone wrong. Gorgeous to look at and highly entertaining, this is definitely a film to watch on the big screen.
What surprised me most about The Martian, though, was how funny it was. The script manages to take a ton of complex scientific material and fold it into an exposition that is both enjoyable and educational, instead of growing tiring and complex—like last year’s Interstellar. Despite obvious comparisons, this film is really nothing like recent space blockbusters Interstellar or Gravity, mainly because, unlike those films, this one doesn’t take place in space; it takes place on Mars.
Another aspect that sets it this film apart from others in its genre is the cast. Led decisively by Matt Damon’s old school, everyman turn, he brings a surprising sincerity to Watney that helps to relieve much of the film’s tension. In the supporting cast are (get ready for it): Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Peña, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Mackenzie Davis, and Donald Glover. Everyone gives solid performances, but I would say Chastain’s guilt-ridden mission leader, Mara’s geeky astronaut rookie, and Glover’s brief but hilarious turn as a young NASA astronomer definitely stand out.
If there is anything about the film to criticize, it is its levity in tackling such heavy subject matter. Many characters lack development and independence, and only one character—Daniels’ head of NASA—seriously questions the practicality of rescuing Watney from the red planet. Everybody else is so keen on getting him back that, as an audience member, you know exactly how this film is going to end. Thus, there is definitely a lull before the third act takes place, but the spectacular finale is well worth the long running time.
The film retains its suspense despite the ending being quite obvious and the fact that a lot of things (although definitely not everything) happen in Watney’s favor. It’s still a pretty intense movie, and with a great mix of comedy, drama, action, and science, it’s sure not to disappoint.
Overall rating: 8 out of 10.