Tag Archives: The Martian

Ridley Scott’s The Martian

You know those Sci-Fi movies where someone has a near miss, narrow escape or heroic encounter up in space and everyone down in the NASA control room leaps up, cheers and claps in collective catharsis? It’s a well worn narrative beat and can sometimes be an eye roll moment. Ridley Scott’s The Martian has several of these but because the characters and plot are so well drawn they feel earned, appropriate and exciting. That goes for the film itself as well, it’s a two and a half hour space epic that feels as breezy as a ninety minute quickie, an optimistic, human story of one man’s ultimate quest for survival and everyone else’s daring attempts to rescue him.

Scott is no stranger to darker, more austere stuff particularly in his Sci-Fi exploits, but he shines a bright light on the proceedings here, making a super complicated, science based story with many moving parts somehow seem light and carefree while also making a big emotional landing. Matt Damon is Mark Watney, astronaut, botanist, space pirate and celestial castaway, marooned on the red planet following a mission gone wrong and presumed dead by NASA and his crew, until he’s able to communicate. He grows potatoes using… homemade fertilizer, repairs a satellite and awaits rescue while everyone else faces moral and technical quandaries in their struggle to bring him home. NASA’s director (Jeff Daniels, smarmy but never an outright baddie) is reluctant to go all out and send another mission, the crew’s handler (Sean Bean, fantastically low key and against his usual tough guy image) wants to do right by them and inform their commander (Jessica Chastain). The earthbound commotion is nicely interlaced with Damon’s solo outings up there and somehow they edit the thing to both realistically depict the passing of time but also fly through the proceedings breathlessly. Scott casts his film with ridiculous talent including Kate Mara, Donald Glover, Michael Pena, Aksel Hennie, Sebastian Stan, Benedict Wong, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristin Wiig and Mackenzie Davis.

Many people wrote this off as a good film but simply fluff, like an enjoyable but kind of inconsequential ride, or at least that’s the vibe I got from some reviews. I couldn’t disagree more. This type of story is exactly the kind of thing we need more of in this day and age. One could remark on the vast amount of effort, overtime hours and expenditure NASA puts in simply to bring one astronaut home, and whether or not it’s worth it (Jeff Daniels certainly has that thought cross his mind), but the truth is that it’s not about just Mark Watney, or just any one person stranded up there, it’s about what the actions and efforts signify, and how important that is, as well as the notable and extreme resilience on his part. This is a film that shows the best in human beings who are put in impossible situations, and how we might make ourselves, and those around us into better people. It’s a rollicking space flick speckled with incredible talent, hilarious comedy, scientific knowledge and has already aged splendidly since it’s release four years ago. Top tier Ridley Scott for me, and one of the best Sci-Fi films in decades.

-Nate Hill

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RIDLEY SCOTT’S THE MARTIAN — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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With the solidly entertaining The Martian, Ridley Scott has made a two and a half hour movie about science, and for that, he should be commended; he’s going to get some kiddies in love with NASA and the space program. I love the fact that three years in a row we’ve gotten a big-budget, original idea space epic from three master filmmakers, all made without the notion to sell toys or become franchises. The fact that Scott’s entry into the outer-space sweepstakes is my least favorite out of the bunch (Interstellar and Gravity being the other two) takes nothing away from how enjoyable a piece of entertainment it is; Scott has found that rare sweet spot between art and commerce with this exquisitely designed trip to the Red Planet. The film is going to be a MASSIVE worldwide hit, which Scott could use at this point. Dariusz Wolski’s stunning cinematography and Janty Yates’ stylish space-suit costumes were some of my favorite aspects to the film. It’s also surprisingly funny – maybe too light considering the life or death stakes presented by the narrative – and that was the one big surprise about the entire thing. Scott is typically a serious with a capital S filmmaker, with only rare ventures into outright comedy (A Good Year) and a stab at black, gallows humor (Hannibal). Matchstick Men has its comedic moments, but that’s a drama first and foremost.

And while The Martian certainly has the requisite action and special effects and big-time money-shots that you’d expect from a lavishly appointed Scott picture, the film seems to be more happy at home in the smaller, more character based moments, and sort of obsessed with subverting the potential heaviness of a story that could have been made in a variety of ways. Matt Damon is never less than excellent in this film, displaying a warmth and humanity that was relatable to observe, with a star-studded supporting cast doing colorful background work both up in space and on the ground. But other than the humor, there was nothing surprising about The Martian, with all of it playing out exactly as I predicted, and while I can’t find too much to be displeased with, I wasn’t sent out of the theater soaring in the same way that I did with Interstellar and Gravity, which The Martian sort of feels like a curious hybrid of. And also, this thing where people are saying: “Ridley Scott is back” and “Wow, what a comeback!” – that’s pure horse-shit. Other than the turgid and wholly unnecessary Exodus, he hasn’t gone anywhere; he’s been here for years making one great movie after another. The Counselor came out two years ago and the film is a diamond-cut masterpiece. But back to The Martian – it’s Ridley Scott doing a four-quadrant family movie with just enough edge to still feel Sir Ridley-ish, and I’m glad it’ll make a ton of money so that maybe he can get another film like The Counselor made.

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