Ridley Scott, a deity within the sci-fi world, has yet to make a space film quite like The Martian. His other films, like Alien or Prometheus, show a darker, more twisted side to space while The Martian is a film full of light-hearted humor and unbridled optimism. Based off of a novel by Andy Weir, Ridley Scott’s newest film is one of the best science fiction films in theaters. Matt Damon plays Mark Watney, a witty, butt-kicking botanist and a well-liked astronaut on a mission to Mars. While collecting samples on Mars, a dust storm hits, forcing the crew to evacuate. They accidentally leave behind Watney after assuming he died when he was hit by some debris. The next two hours follow Watney as he tries to survive within the empty red horizons of Mars without food or water.
In spite of its lengthy running time, the film hardly has any moments where it drags. It has some excellently timed jokes — with just the right amount of profanity used to heighten the humor — so the audience never gets bored with Watney or the rest of the NASA staff. Damon does an excellent job playing the smart-mouthed astronaut, and he easily shoulders large portions of the movie by himself without it ever feeling forced. The audience never tires of seeing what Watney will do next and never tires of listening to whichever delightful ’70s disco record he might play. Because, let’s face it, any movie that has ABBA and David Bowie is a good movie. The rest of the cast also brings Ridley Scott’s film to life. Whether it be a NASA nerd like Donald Glover or an honest spokesperson like Kristen Wiig or even a compassionate friend like Jessica Chastain, the actors are well-cast and bring their characters to life.
Although the heart of the film lies in the phenomenal performances of the actors, another notable aspect of the film is its special effects. Ridley Scott makes the red surface of Mars and the vacuous miles of space feel tangible. The film shows off the power of modern special effects in a way that brings the world of the film to life. Scott also includes some excellent point of view shots, making the audience feel as though they too are astronauts trying to survive on the barren landscapes of Mars. This made the film oddly relatable even to the earthbound.
It is the reality of the film that makes The Martian distinct from other science fiction films. If you are looking for the teeth-grinding, inaccurate melodrama of Gravity, you will not find it in this film. Fact-checked over and over by NASA, The Martian is hauntingly scientifically accurate, making it even that much more believable.
Watney’s persistence and willingness to survive creates a newfound respect for astronauts and their ability to “science the sh**” out every problem they encounter. He doesn’t let anything get in his way. Heart-warming, funny, dramatic, and inspirational, The Martian is an adventure not to miss.