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‘The Martian’ is a space ‘dramedy’ with Matt Damon as main character Mark Watney, an astronaut and botanist, and follows his time abandoned on Mars. Ridley Scott directs this film and is certainly no stranger to space and survival movies creating some of the best ones like Alien. Damon’s co-stars are a very good balance of many up and coming actors and actresses such as Kate Mara (House of Cards) and Sebastian Stan (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) with some well established ones like Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave).
The plot of this movie follows Watney as he is abandoned on Mars when his crew leaves him after he is believed to be dead by being struck by debris during a storm. After waking up from being knocked unconscious, Watney decides to plan out how to get back home. This includes growing potatoes in impossible conditions, finding an old Mars Rover to make contact with NASA and embarking on a 3200km trip to the landing of the next Mars Mission.
However the film also covers the drama that happens on Earth and on the Hermes spacecraft containing Watney’s crewmates. On Earth NASA are trying to deal with simultaneously the PR disaster of an abandoned astronaut on a planet 140 million miles away whilst coming up with a rescue mission to try and bring Mark home. Aboard the Hermes the crew try to come to terms with Mark’s abandonment and try to assist NASA as much as possible.
The story has many different storylines constantly happening and switches from Earth to Mars to Space to NASA to China to Mars and back. However the pace of it is very well kept and doesn’t feel forced apart from one point in the film where it covers one and a half years in a space of twenty minutes which makes it feel a bit overlooked but in the film’s defence Watney is essentially doing the same thing over and over for this amount of time.
All of the scenes set on Mars were filmed in Wadi Rum, a valley in the Middle-Eastern country Jordan, and the entire time you feel you are on Mars. Even the computer generated sky blended seamlessly into this world. The final act of the film which is set mostly in space itself accomplishes the same thing as other space films like Gravity and Interstellar; it absolutely immerses the audience in space.
Matt Damon is great as Mark Watney. He succeeds very well in the trauma and stress of the situation he is in but pulls off the comedy to relieve a lot of that stress from the audience. His performance is what drives the movie and rallies the audience’s support for him otherwise this movie wouldn’t carry the same emotional weight that it does.
The supporting cast is great as well, Chiwetel Ejiofor as the director of NASA’s Mars missions and his interactions with Watney provide some of the funny moments in the film. Watney’s crew are portrayed by Jessica Chastain as Commander Lewis of the Ares 3 mission, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Michael Peña and German actor Aksel Hennie. Their camaraderie and ‘banter’ also drives the humour and the story of this movie.
Overall I would rate this movie a 9/10 mostly due to Damon’s performance and the landscapes Ridley Scott used for Mars. Also you’ll never feel tired after this movie despite all of the dizziness that comes with space in movies like Interstellar, but rather makes it a fun experience despite Mark Watney’s situation. Finally this movie isn’t as depressing and emotionally heavy as the story might suggest due to the humour that the story and the characters provide.