Wednesday, 17 February 2016

The Martian

Out now on Blu-Ray and DVD, The Martian, Ridley Scott’s newest sci-fi film, presents one of the scariest notions of all time – being completely on your own. Matt Damon plays Mark Watney, one of the Ares III crew, who are on a 31 Sol NASA mission to Mars to explore the Acidalia Planitia. Unfortunately it doesn’t go quite to plan when a storm is much more violent than predicted, meaning that the crew have to make a quick exit. On the journey back to the vessel Watney is struck by a piece of flying debris. The crew have to leave, under the assumption that they’re now a man down.

After the storm we discover that this is not the case at all – Watney awakens due to the low oxygen warning of his suit, and makes his way back to the base. When he realises that he’s been left behind, he realises he now has only two choices: survive or die.

I’d been excited about watching this film for a while, and so naturally had built up a sort of expectation around what it was going to be like. It turned out my expectation was nothing like the reality – I’d envisaged a film about loneliness and despair, when actually the main theme was hope. From the very beginning we witness a man in the most terrible of situations turn it around to make a success out of what he has, despite the dwindling resources and the fact that he’s the only man on the planet. Luckily Watney is a botanist, and so he goes through a series of small achievements which results in the sustainable growing of potatoes, despite being stranded on a planet with no water or liveable atmosphere.

I felt perhaps the pace was a bit too quick at the start – the crew left the planet within the first ten minutes, and then Watney managed to go from stranded man to successful colonisation within about half an hour. It got me thinking though – to go into space one needs to be ridiculously clever to begin with, and so perhaps it wasn’t that unrealistic an achievement (it did make me feel rather inferior though!).  I’d liked to have seen more in between bits though; the film was so captivating that it could easily have been half an hour longer and still been watchable.

Interestingly, the film felt a bit like a documentary at points – in particular when focusing on the progress from Mission Control. The filming was varied and so kept the tension there (it could easily have been portrayed as a slow and morbid journey, which I don’t think would have worked quite so well). The scenery was stunning, and both Jordan and Hungary made very realistic Mars landscapes. In fact, the whole film felt realistic – although I can’t comment on how realistic the actual science behind it was (some parts did seem quite far out), it honestly felt like everything was actually happening. Everything was believable, from the location to NASA to the characters, and I could almost feel the effort that Watney was putting into his survival.

On the subject of characters, Matt Damon gave a brilliant performance as Mark Watney, and the rest of the main cast (Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wigg, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels and Sean Bean) all played convincing roles alongside him. Donald Glover gave a particularly enigmatic performance as astrophysicist Rich Purnell – although he wasn’t a main part, he certainly added something.

Overall, the film was pretty darn good. Casting was perfect, the plot seemed believable, and clearly a lot of effort had been put into making it. I’m not happy about sound effects being added in when the spaceship was in flight (rookie mistake, Scott – why would you do this?!), but apart from that, I’d thoroughly recommend The Martian to anyone, whether they’re a fan of space movies or not.

The Martian gets a 5/5.


Hannah Read

The Martian at CeX

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