A sci-fi virtuoso, iconic director Ridley Scott returns to screen in his new space-themed film, The Martian.
In his second astronaut role, Matt Damon stars as Mark Watney, a NASA botanist who after engaging in a human mission to Mars, becomes stranded and presumed dead when his crew is forced to abort mission. Abandoned and with the “nearest help only 140 million miles away”, Watney uses his botanist expertise to grow food and communicate a signal back down to Earth, an impossible task that requires him to use every ounce of his astronomy knowledge to survive.
With the focus on the “martian”, the film hinges solely on Damon’s character, Watney – and fortunately, he displays an exhilarating performance that gives justice to the astronomy vocation. The concept of the “martian” is immensely palpable through Damon’s display of isolation and unfamiliarity. Damon’s Watney spends most of his time alone and as result, Damon’s screen work is primarily solitary. By all means not an easy feat, The Martian emphasises Damon’s powerful screen presence and ability to command and deliver a brilliant performance.
Likewise, The Martian is supported by exceptional performances from the Ares 3 crew members – Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Michael Peña, Sebastian Stan and Aksel Hennie, all of whom demonstrate great performances that illustrate the solidarity amongst the members. Filled with a star-studded cast – Jeff Daniels as Teddy Sanders, director of NASA and Kristen Wiig, media director of NASA – The Martian displays outstanding performance from its award winning cast.
With distinguished films such Alien, Blade Runner and Gladiator, Scott is well-known for his illustrious style of filmmaking, focusing on the visual element. A recurring theme in Scott’s work centres on atmospheric setting in a sci-fi world. Using exceptional technology to depict outer space, Scott exhibits a realistic portrayal of NASA and space, creating an authentic depiction of the possibility of the real-life event. At the same time, Scott excellently integrates the emotional aspect of film – intense isolation and struggle to survival – against the uninhabited space landscape and the space crew atmosphere back on Earth.
Adapted from Andy Weir’s best-selling novel, The Martian offers up an accurate theatrical version by staying faithful to the novel. Straying from the physically horrifying effects of isolation and instead focusing on the emotional aspect, Scott’s film is surprisingly lighthearted, presenting the story beautifully and with palpable feeling.
Screenwriter Drew Goddard creates a harmonious mix of sci-fi and drama, tinged with comedic wit that keeps the film entertaining amidst the scientific jargon. Fortunately, the sleek and realistic depiction of space presents an easier and less-muddled scientific dialogue (unlike Interstellar) to the audience, regardless of scientific accuracy.
With an outstanding performance from Damon and exceptional direction from Scott, The Martian is truly impressive.