The Martian – 4.5/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

The MartianThe Martian – 4.5/5 – What the best films do is provide an essence of escape, but also make the audience feel it as real as possible.  At the core of any story, you want to feel as if you are there. That journey is strong with this approach.  That is the feeling you get (at the heart) of The Martian.  A film based around concepts and practical scientific allure; it is a film that’s pumped with enough characterization, action and humanity that you understand the purpose of survival.  In short, even with some minor miscues, this is by far one of the best sci-fi films I have ever seen.

Premise: A man presumed dead on a Mar’s mission; Mark Watney is found out to be alive.  With limited supplies, NASA must race against time to get him back home.  With all odds against them, Mark Watney must use his intellect and ingenuity to survive long enough to be saved

In the lead role of Mark Watney is actor Matt Damon.  He is part of the Mar’s mission; and the man that get’s left behind thought to be dead.  What everyone comes to find out, he is alive and now stranded on Mars.  He has limited food, resources and no way to contact NASA.  Against all odds, he must find a way to survive and contact those that could save him.  With a film that is almost complete centralized on one character, you get to see the strength of Damon’s acting ability.  He makes you believe he is trapped on Mars.  Damon provides a wealth of charm, depth and charisma on screen.  He also adds a layer of scientific emphasis on the most surreal situations.  Bringing (at the core) the essence of raw human nature of being alone, you get to see a man who is smart and blunt.  He has strength because of the witty dialogue with a technical mixture of diction.  He lives in a layer of ‘no hope’ but he understands the situation.  He can’t let it win.  The audience can his pain, but understand his calm demeanor.  With no real interaction with any other character for most of the film, he commands the screen with ease.  He adds heart, wisdom, anguish and strength to survive. He provides a layer that harkens to the core of being human.  That raw fragility gives purpose, and you see it through Mark Watney.  It is a truly award worthy performance.  With the rest of the cast, it is a slew of big names and up-and-comers.  You can reference the list at the film’s IMDB page.  I’ll make note of some standout secondary performances:

Jessica Chastain as Melissa Lewis

Jeff Daniels as Teddy Sanders

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Vincent Kapoor

Sean Bean as Mitch Henderson

These four have strong, pivotal roles in the film.  They don’t detract from the main characters central role or the focus of the story.  They do a great job in adding another effect of this ‘man stranded on Mars’ ordeal, dealing with the fallout and having to find a way to solve the situation.  In it all, they help add multiple angles of emotional and situational depth to what has occurred.  This allows the audience to understand each position; feeling empathy of them trying to not causes errors for this man’s survival.   There are some in the secondary cast that become standard archetypes found in any other Sci-fi film, but overall they don’t completely take away from the film’s tone.

The direction is standard in its progression.  What the director (Ridley Scott) does is let the character’s carry the film.  In the ‘quest’ like purpose of the main character (as well as the rest of the cast) you see an added emphasize for them to journey through the direst of situations.  Within the simple ideal of survival, we get a different spin.  We get the emphasis on the human condition.  With the idea of almost any kind of ‘stranded’ situation, what will said person do to survive.  Pressed with serious questions, the approach is welcomed.  The director does a good job in shaping tension within the subtle use of humor and dramatization.  There are technicalities in the exposition, but also a mixture of satire, humor and a conversational like approach.  This helps ground the film in its fiction like situation.  The mixture of characterization within a sci-fi film could have come off as cliché.  The approach pays off (for the most part).  It allows the audience to become entrenched in this quest of Mark Watney to find a way to survive in the harsh condition of the Mar’s landscape.  The allure of survival is intense, but the story is brought across light hearted because of Watney’s approach to things.  Faced with all these odds, you just have to face them head on.  Being the person he is; he finds ways (scientifically) to survive.   Eventually, he finds a way to contact NASA.  This adds another theme to the human characterization; adding the ‘race against time’ scenario.  In it, the mixture of humor, drama and scientific exposition keeps the film at a steady pace; one were you’re engaged mentally and emotionally.  The allure of the characters also keeps you engaged, as you’re rooting for everyone involved to make something good happen.  As the film progresses through the middle portion, the simple approach starts wane thin.  There are a lot of convenient plot devices that pop up; predictably there to move the film along the common ‘A to B’ approach.  Moving everyone and everything in a ‘positional’ like stance does take away from the humanistic tone, but it doesn’t sway completely from the focus or pace of the film.  Once we get into the final sequence and climax, the film becomes all more thrilling.  The attempt to retrieve Mark Watney is as daring as any rescue, one where any slight diversion can mean the death of everyone involved.  After the daring rescue, the film winds down in a retrospective epilogue, one that gives great emphasis on both the science involved and the strength of the human will.  With a mixture so simple, it brings a question that many face every day.   That realism in the film’s escape is what raises it into the realm of amazing, timeless and unforgettable.

The cinematography is some of the best I have ever seen. With the task of creating Mars, the visuals are as realistic as if you were there.  From panorama style to the emphasis on landscapes, the visuals are left to its pristine nature to provide emotional depth with a look of the lenses. The audience will be completely enraptured by what is seen.  You feel the dire situation of what this man has to go through, while also feeling the irony in the beauty of silence of this planet.   Colors are strongly focused, and the angles left to create a ‘still-like’ approach make the believability all more exciting.  The score is pretty typical of any kind of sci-fi film.  You have a mixture of loud, resounding orchestra, while also a sped up of strong sounds to emphasize the tension at certain scenes.

Simply put it, The Martian is not only one of the best Sci-fi films of the year, but one of the best films of the year so far.  With a mixture of great characters, simple story telling, humor and escapism, there is enough here that anyone can enjoy.  I recommend this at full price, worth the money of admission to see in IMAX or 3-D.

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