You know that feeling when you’re stranded on mars because your crew thinks you’re dead? No? Me neither. But luckily for us we have a movie where such a scenario plays out. Adapted from Andy Weir’s phenomenal novel of the same name, The Martian is a sci-fi film that aims to be one the year’s biggest films. Apart from the premise, the appeal from The Martian comes from it’s usage of science and mathematics that Mark Watney, our stranded protagonist, uses to survive. The challenge that the film faces is how it can portray all the science and one-sided in a way that’s entertaining for an audience. Thankfully, master of science fiction Ridley Scot has brought a fantastic film that combines humour, wit, thrills, and science in package that will entertain those who have read the book and those that haven’t.
The story of The Martian is perhaps one of its biggest draws. In the news we’ve been talking about missions to Mars that will happen decades from now and the idea of leaving people there. In hindsight The Martian feels incredibly timely. With that said, Mark Watney isn’t stuck there by choice. But, unlike say Interstellar where the situation is endlessly dire, Mark’s is far more optimistic. He’s a botanist and a mechanical engineer, in essence the one guy who could probably survive being stranded on Mars. Eventually Earth realizes his predicament and through some great ingenuity work to bring him home. The story is both serious and silly, Mark’s number crunching to survive is tinged with some hilarious moments that keep your eyes glued to the screen for the full two and a half hours.
Normally, when I see a film adapted from the book either It’s been forever since I’ve read it or I’ve haven’t read it at all. However this time around I had finished reading the book a couple days before seeing The Martian. Being fresh in my mind, I could clearly see the differences between the adaptation and the source material. With that said, as far as adaptations go The Marian is perhaps once the best adaptations I’ve seen, in both being faithful to the book and making it a good film. That’s not to say there aren’t differences, some are far more noticeable then others, but you could in theory see the movie and get a very good idea of what happened in the book. But, perhaps what I commend the film the most for is its ability to take a subject like rationing or chemistry and make it an engaging part of the story. While I would have found that interesting without the hollywood treatment, they’ve done it in such a way that allows even those who hate science to have fun with it. It’s more than numbers, it’s keeping Mark alive on a desolate planet.
I say desolate, but one of the best parts of the film has to be the stunning martian landscape. While Mars is lifeless and monotone, you can’t but be in awe of the planet’s alien beauty through the movie’s stunning cinematography. After a series of rather lacklustre films, Ridley Scott and his crew have certainly done a brilliant job bring mMrs, a lifeless planet, to life.
Bringing the characters to life is an amazing cast, all of whom give; if you pardon the expression, out of this world performances. I was originally skeptical of Matt Damon and whether or not he’d be able to portray to the more light-hearted aspects of Watney’s personality without coming across as too forced. But it turns out he’s a natural, to everyone’s benefit. Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, and Donald Glover also give incredible performances. On the other hand, Jeff Daniels doesn’t do so well portraying the closest thing the film had to a villain: a bureaucrat. Perhaps it’s the fact they make his character more antagonistic compared to his book counterpart, but even then his character is very one-dimensional.
In the end, I find myself comparing the film to Interstellar. Both are epics of sci-fi that tell stories of perilous space exploration and those fighting for survival. A key difference though is that while Interstellar is a grim and cynical tale where everything seems to go wrong, The Martian is optimistic and light-hearted in comparison. Yes, things do go horribly wrong in The Martian, but rather than just mope and stumble into a plan, every character gives it their all to succeed. I can’t help but feel in a media culture where most of what we see is bleak and somber, The Martian is a breath of fresh air and quite inspiring with its messages of perseverance and community. The world gets behind Mark Watney to save him, and while you’re watching you can’t help but sit on the edge of your seat and root for him to. Whether or not you know the story of The Martian, you’ll enjoy it immensely, maybe learn a thing or two about science while you’re at it.