Ridley Scott’s last few outings weren’t worth remembering (though they rang the bells in the box office). But this time, with ‘The Martian’ it’s indeed his comeback. The film is gonna certainly remind the viewer of Alfonso Cuarón’s ‘Gravity’ (2013) and its natual for the film buffs to run into comparisons though they are set in completely different backdrops. Perhaps the similarity is both the films deal with the survival quest of marooned astronauts. Fellow Creofirean Arun has previously presented his review on The Martian (novel) here on the Book Review section. For I haven’t read the book yet, had to have a little chat regarding it with him before typing this piece.
The Martian at the very first frame grabs the viewer’s attention as the camera crawls over the Martian rocks. Like Gravity, this film has used 3D to its best- rich, vivid and spectacular- not just to be showy with the technology but to make use of it to elevate the entire backdrop thereby providing a virtual live-in experience to the viewer. Through the eyes of the camera the red terrain of the sister planet looks breathtaking, especially in the aerial shots. At times the terrain remains of those like we’d seen in the Westerns, don’t know why!
The plot by itself is simple. Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon), a Botanist, is one among in the Manned mission Ares III. The film opens with a Martian Strom that the crew encounters and Watney who meets with an accident, presumed dead, and is left behind. The film then unfolds showcasing Watney’s survival attempts. The story at this point has thrown a good amount of make-believe scientific fantasy and each attempt he makes kindles the enthusiasm in the viewer. In parallel, if ever the viewer also has a taste for space science he/she might obviously be engrossed with the thoughts about the scientific possibilities on what’s unfolding on screen and this makes the movie experience a lot fun.
Cleverly Scott skims the technical part of the plot- the making of water for cultivation, for instance- and instead focuses on the effect the knowledge that Watney is still alive brings forth and the aspirations of the NASA team to bring him back that follows. The director has clanged on the fun part of the story and sprinkles with the hardcore science part that it deals with a little lesser, well at the right dosage. Hollywood seems to have grown an affinity towards ‘space’ flicks that we get to see Gravity, Interstellar and now The Martian one after the other. All these films along with the fantasy part of it do explore the actual science behind their plotline.
Matt Damon as Mark Watney shoulders the film for the most of its running time, talking to himself – which has helped the director to explain the facts behind-the-story to the audience- has offered a splendid performance. (Later in the movie, while he sports a bearded look Matt heavily reminded me of DiCaprio. Was it the same with you too?) But as a character Watney, given the utter loneliness in an alien planet too far away from home, not once shows psychological trauma or mental pressure. He instead takes his very situation too sportive and connects with the viewer with a very funny way(like thinking on how to pose in the mid of his potato garden). Except while he uses the F-word while texting, we get to see the NASA director quoting on his stress briefly over the phone to The President. Perhaps Andy Weir wanted him to be that way- Mr. Supercool. I don’t know what it did to the reader in the novel; nonetheless on screen it doesn’t evoke emotional attachment with the protagonist. Perhaps this is why, the sequences the show up the whole world waiting for the return of Watney appears more cinematic than being realistic. On the other hand the nationalities of the technical team members of various NASA labs are showcased without bias.
The film packed with a good amount of drama, with VFX never sticking out (hence some might consider it minimal) throughout limiting itself in assisting the progression of the story and in detailing the happening landscape. In Gravity the whole plot was kept tight focused on the redemption of the pivotal character marooned in space. In ‘The Martian’ though a good amount of scientific fantasy is thrown as the ‘film time’ is set to be, logically, futuristic. One might wonder at the attempts Watney takes in his tryst to survive and also get reminded of the fact that Science Fiction remains seducing and compelling due to the amount of scientific fantasy that it packs within itself. Progression of Science begins with musings on it, after all.