I finally got to see The Martian this weekend thanks to several hours free in the middle of my non-stop schedule lately, with nothing to do while trapped in Boston.
I described Gravity as “the worst work day ever”. But it was relentless – a constant series of just bad things happening that just somehow impossibly not end up killing the protagonist. Great visuals, but TOO intense and non-stop.
The Martian is Gravity done a TON better. And more enjoyable.
In The Martian, as seen in the previews, a sudden massive storm forces the abort of the Ares III mission on the surface of Mars. While attempting to reach the ascent vehicle, astronaut Mark Watney is struck by a piece of debris, and his bio monitor indicates that his suit had been ruptured. The rest of the crew are unable to locate him before he would likely run out of air, and are forced to take off.
Miraculously, Watney survives and makes it back to the habitat, and realizes his situation. He’s trapped on another planet alone, communications are out, a rescue mission would take 4 years to reach him without nearly enough food and many things that if they broke would kill him.
The Martian dispenses with the intensity for realism. It isn’t a constant series of bad things happening, but there is the constant threat of it. But Watney is given the chance to think through his options, and not have to improvise every second. He works through the solutions and, for the benefit of the audience, talks through them via the video logs he makes in case anyone can retrieve them.
Matt Damon did a spectacular job as Watney. He managed to effectively bring the humor to a character in a dire situation. He appears defeated when things go south but never gives up. And everything he does is believable, and for the most part, accurate. As part of that, in some cases the technospeak might lose some portion of the audience – such as all the talk about intercept velocities. But it is something that they had to deal with, so the audience had to deal with it too.
Perhaps the weakest parts of the movie may have been with the supporting cast. Not that anything was horrible, but at times I just didn’t connect with the emotion or passion the characters should have been generating. I hate to say this, but I think Sean Bean’s portrayal of flight director Mitch Henderson, who I felt should have been making a more impassioned plea of NASA director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels), but more often looked like someone who just wanted to go to bed. And I LOVE Sean Bean. But keep a watch out for the meeting where they discuss “Project Elrond”…
Visually, the movie is spectacular…the flat Mars landscapes punctuated by tall, wind-carved mountains, looked incredibly realistic. I was VERY impressed. They did a spectacular job of not making it look like he was just filmed in a greenscreen room and everything was just composted in.
I believe The Martian is probably the best movie I’ve seen in years.