The Martian [MOVIE REVIEW]

Ridley Scott has definitely not been in his A game for quite some time now. I do not think I have been enjoying any of the films he has made in the past 10 years... maybe even longer if I think about it enough. With that being said, the buzz has been out for a couple of weeks now that he might have finally been able to step back into the limelight in a positive manner as 'The Martian' is being heraled as one of the best movies of the entire year. So is it true? Has he finally returned?

Yes. In fact, 'The Martian' is not just a welcomed return for Ridley Scott. 'The Martian' might even be his FINEST work to date and is definitely one of the best movies of the entire year. In 2013 we got 'Gravity', in 2014 we got 'Interstellar' and now in 2015 we got 'The Martian' and the latter is without a doubt the best of the three and could even be a contender for the BEST sci-fi movie of the century so far. This is what 'Interstellar' should have been but sadly fell short. 'The Martian' is not afraid of leaning quite heavily on the comedic side of things despite the rather serious situation at hand but it ultimately just complements the gravitas of what is going on because we see quite a lot of scenes when our main character Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) be quite humorous about his situation, so when shit goes down and he is not laughing - you know it is serious. I believe it is pretty damn safe to say that I loved this movie and I recommend it to everyone who is looking for something to watch in the theatre right now.

'The Martian' is based on a New York Times bestselling novel written by Andy Weir and was then adapted to the big screen by Drew Goddard who was the creator of the Marvel Netflix show 'Daredevil' so yeah... he is having a pretty damn good year. I have not read the novel and I was not aware of its existence before finding out about this movie so I cannot comment on whether or not it is accurate to what happens in it - but I will say that however closely it followed what happens in the novel, it ultimately does not matter. The real importance is if it is a good movie or not - and it most definitely is, and the script is part of the reason why.

While 'Interstellar' was busy trying to ensure the audience that everything that is happening is super serious stuff with absolutely no time for the characters to act like human beings - 'The Martian' is more interested in actually letting us know why we are supposed to be invested in Matt Damon's character. While 'Interstellar' was also busy trying to prove to the audience that everything that is happening is rooted in actual science through pages and pages of expository dialogue - 'The Martian' gives the audience just enough information for us to buy into the science and then put our main focus on the characters. The ironic thing though is that by the end credits of both films, 'The Martian' comes across a LOT more plausible than 'Interstellar'. No, I do not dislike 'Interstellar' - it is just so satisfying seeing a movie come out a year later and give me exactly what I wanted from the Nolan flick.

Drew Goddard's script is very tightly written with lots of great lines and pacing that will ensure that nobody in the theatre gets bored. You would think a movie like this would open up and establish all the characters and let us get to know them before everything goes haywire - but the action actually begins only a couple of minutes into it as they are already on Mars when the movie begins. At first I was quite surprised just how early into the film Matt Damon got stranded but as the story progressed it made complete sense because you have now earned yourself all this extra time to get the plot going. A movie written and directed by lesser people would have begun the movie with the astronauts as early as their training days or something and not even get to the central plot until about 30 minutes into the movie. 'The Martian' did a very smart decision of not doing that and actually get the audience invested right out of the gate and THEN develop the characters (if you go the other way around, chances are the people looking for a sci-fi action/adventure film are not going to pay as much attention to the character development at the start). It also has to be said that the best example of how to explain just how brilliant this script is, is by saying that it FELT like it was based on a real story just by how real all the characters feel and how organic all the twists and turns plays out.

Matt Damon is fantastic in this film. Expertly handling the rather tough role of carrying most of the heavy weights on his own as he almost never have anyone to play off of. If there was ever a time to give him another Oscar nomination, this is it. Having to sit down and talk to a camera so many times throughout the film - and still make it ridiculously entertaining and compelling is just masterful work on his part. Mark Watney is a very smart, optimistic and three dimensional character and what makes him so compelling to watch is that he is actually doing a magnificent job at staying alive. He knows exactly what he is doing and he seems to figure out solutions for everything in ways other screenwriters would not bother doing for "plot convenience". Literally the only reason why he is even in any sort of trouble is due to the sandstorms that randomly occurs on Mars which wreaks havoc everywhere it goes.

All the other actors shall not be overshadowed though as they all knock it out of the park. Jeff Daniels is excellent as an older version of Zac Efron's character in 'Neighbors' - wait that is not the same character? Oh... well I guess it was just a major coincidence their characters' happen to have the same name. Although I would like to imagine Efron's character in 'Neighbors' growing up to become the administrator of NASA. All joking aside, Jeff Daniels is amazing as he plays a character that could easily have come across as a villain but he is humanized so well (and the writing never lets us believe the character does not care about Damon's life) and you can tell that cares about the astronauts and he also cares about NASA. Chiwetel Ejiofor worked extremely well with Daniels as he is a lot more interested in saving Damon's life and they have some excellent scenes together as they argue about what is the right thing to do. We also have Sean Bean and Kristen Wiig offering other sides of the coin in what ultimately becomes a very balanced viewpoint on the situation.

Just like Ridley Scott's other directiorial work, 'The Martian' is a beauty to behold and SHOULD be seen on the big screen to fully understand just how breathtaking the visuals are here. This is all the more impressive considering the budget is actually not that insane compared to most other science fiction films. The production budget alone is roughly about $108 million but Ridley Scott makes it look like twice that. The visual effects are guaranteed to be up for an oscar next year and I would be damn surprised if we also did not see a cinematography nomination for Dariusz Wolski. Ridley Scott's films always look stunning but they have actually not received an Oscar nomination since 2001 with 'Black Hawk Dawn' so it is going to be exciting to see if the Academy can finally recognize just how beautifully well he puts together these shots. We also have the music by Harry Gregson-Williams which is very fittingly downplayed throughout most of the running time as it never becomes the bombastic epic that you would probably expect after both 'Gravity' and 'Interstellar'.

Overall, 'The Martian' is one of the best experiences I have had in a movie theatre this whole year and there is no way in hell it is not making it into my top 10 favorite films of 2015 by the end of it all. The directing by Ridley Scott is SPOT ON, the writing is near perfection, the performances all around are Oscar calibre, the visuals are a marvel to behold and it is just such a damn fun movie that I cannot imagine anyone disliking it. This is a masterpiece of epic proportions and finally gives us that well balanced and fresh science fiction film we (or atleast I) have been wanting to see.


- Lucas


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