Big Screen: The Martian
October 8th 2015
Robin Hood was a giant flop that almost no one remembers, and Exodus much the same — but that can’t stop Ridley Scott.
Ridley Scott is the most insanely prolific director. He just pumps out these big budget studio blockbusters like they are nothing. In the last six or seven years I have seen and reviewed — off the top of my head — American Gangster, Robin Hood, Body of Lies, Prometheus, Exodus: Gods and Kings and The Counselor. But the crazy thing is, a lot of these movies were just awful and some of them tanked. I remember enjoying American Gangster, and I will forever have a soft spot for The Counselor because of that brilliantly absurd scene where Cameron Diaz has sex with a Ferrari…
But the rest were almost completely crap. Robin Hood was a giant flop that almost no one remembers, and Exodus much the same — but that can’t stop Ridley. They just keep on letting him make movies, and now he’s back with another giant budget studio blockbuster, The Martian. Guess what though? He has finally made a really good movie.
You did it, Ridley! Take a holiday, buddy.
The Martian is about an astronaut called Mark Watney who is accidentally left behind on Mars. Don’t worry — it wasn’t some Home Alone-style misunderstanding. His astronaut buddies had every reason to think he was dead. The movie then essentially becomes us watching Watney try to figure out how to survive on Mars, while NASA scrambles to come up with some crazy plan to rescue him before he dies to any of a number of seemingly inevitable things.
This is based on an awesome self-published book by Andy Weir that I loved and written by the great screenwriter Drew Goddard. Ridley has always been far more of a visual storyteller, not all that interested in character or — memorably in the case of Prometheus — basic story logic and continuity.
Here he is blessed with a story and script that takes care of all that for him.
What’s great about The Martian is that the movie wastes very little time dwelling on the misery and loneliness of Watney. It focuses instead on his intelligence, optimism and drive to survive.
On Earth we meet the greatest minds on the planet who toil hard and sacrifice a lot to bring him back. There are no villains, just smart people attacking seemingly impossible problems. I loved that. And, look, I don’t know whether you can use poop to grow potatoes on Mars or not, but what’s important is that the movie made me think you could. Last time we saw Matt Damon he was an astronaut stuck alone on another planet in Interstellar.
That’s a weird thing to do twice in a row, but I liked this character a lot more so I’ll allow it.
Damon gives a great movie star performance supported by an amazing cast of people like Donald Glover, Kirsten Wiig, Sean Bean, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jessica Chastain and Jeff Daniels. The Martian is the very best example of big budget studio filmmaking. It’s well worth a look.
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