Having only seen the trailers for The Martian, I went into this unaware of how much humor there would actually be. In that regard, it’s quite faithful to the source material; Drew Goddard was able to inherit author Andy Weir’s snarky dialogue and translate it from the pages of a novel onto the pages of a screenplay, while Sir Ridley Scott brought it all to life.
The Martian follows botanist Mark Watney who, during a mission to Mars, is hit by a fierce storm and left behind by his crew who presume that he’s dead. But little did they know that he’s still very much alive, stranded on the hostile planet. With limited resources at hand, Watney must draw upon his ingenuity in order to survive.
It looked as if the legendary director’s best days were behind him, entering a career slump of sorts with The Counselor and Exodus, both of which were dull and uninspired chapters of his otherwise impressive filmography. The Martian, however, marks Ridley Scott ‘s return to form. It’s captivating from beginning to end, enjoyable from beginning to end, and full of personality from, you guessed it, beginning to end.
A lot of that personality, if not all of it, is due to the incredible and diverse group of actors that have been rounded up here, including Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Donald Glover, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and most notably Matt Damon. If not for him and the way he charismatically delivers his lines, the sarcastic dialogue, which is just Damon talking to a video recorder, would’ve ended up being really awkward. Ejiofor and Chastain both make strong impressions as well, along with the rest of the cast who have smaller, yet potent moments of their own.
Despite having good performances, the film didn’t do as good of a job getting me to naturally invest in these characters. Sure, you care for Watney’s life but that’s only because of the situations that the story places him in; there was no real emotional through line for me to grab hold of, which is kind of a problem when you spend, nearly, the entire movie with a single character.
But the thing that stops me from calling The Martian “great” is that it’s a very safe, by the numbers, sci-fi film. It doesn’t have the technical drive of Gravity or the emotional punch of Interstellar; it’s very good, and sometimes that’s good enough.