Finally, a sci-fi blockbuster about hope.
In Ridley Scott’s latest film The Martian, astronaut and botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is stranded on Mars after a storm, where he must survive by himself until NASA can bring him home. It’s very reminiscent of Castaway, but The Martian feels more hopeful. Whereas Castaway focuses more on the loneliness of a stranded man (and his volleyball), The Martian is more about the strength of humanity: about this one man and his determination to survive, and everyone else pulling together to rescue that on man, against all impossibilities. It’s actually quite an uplifting film. It would’ve been nice if it touched a little on the loneliness of Mark on Mars, or the devastation of being left behind, but it’s refreshing to see a sci-fi film that doesn’t condemn the human condition.
Because this film isn’t all seriousness and sadness, and it has some genuinely funny moments and quips. Matt Damon is practically flawless as Mark Watney, bringing the right amount of serious emotion and dry humour to the role and making him feel very real and human, since we all use humour as a coping mechanism. Ridley Scott’s ability to create characters that we don’t know very much about, yet still feel deeply for, has always been transfixing, and he has done it yet again here. And, even though it was easy to figure out that Mark doesn’t die (Spoiler alert, but you didn’t really think he would, did you?), no tension was really lost. The dangers of Mars’ unpredictable environment left me in anticipation for Mark’s safety throughout the entire movie. As a rather scientific movie, it’s not overwhelming either; it also seems to be pretty spot on in terms of accuracy, too, which is unsurprising coming from a director like Ridley Scott.
Scott’s direction and use of CGI were spot on, like always, but through it he also manages to personify Mars as devastating and harsh. The film technically has no villain, but Mars is characterised as both good and evil: a beast that Mark has to both work with and defeat.
Though it seems like a one man show, the film has a truly star-studded cast. Notable performances include Jessica Chastain as Commander Lewis, who was both fearless and compassionate in her mission to save Mark, and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Vincent Kapoor, who was just as dedicated to bring him home.
Also, as a side note: composer Harry Gregson-Williams’ original soundtrack was great, but the non-original soundtrack was just awesome. It was playing off some kind of dark, humorous sarcasm, revolving around a running 70s music gag; David Bowie’s ‘Starman’ was one of the most inspired choices, and the film’s credits rolled with Gloria Gaynor’s fitting ‘I Will Survive’.
Though it avoided the struggle of loneliness and desertion, The Martian gave us a hopeful representation of humanity in a genre that can often be condemning. Matt Damon has captured the human spirit of determination in Watney, and through him Ridley Scott has created a film which shows how humanity CAN work together, in their determination to ensure that no one gets left behind.
Here’s my list of my top five favourite films and TV shows starring cast members of The Martian:
- We Built A Zoo (Matt Damon) (Well, it’s my favourite)
- The Help (Jessica Chastain)
- Community (Donald Glover)
- Ant-Man (Michael Pena)
- Blade Runner (Ridley Scott).