The entire purpose of science fiction movies is to explore areas where no one has dared to go before and this is the primary dilemma for The Martian; the movie has chosen to go to a turf that has been recently frequented by several others. While the movie may not be nail-biting, there is no denying that the script is zingy and Matt Damon’s performance of being lost-in-space is the most exciting we have seen Ridley Scott in a while. As far as Matt Damon is concerned, his role in the movie is similar to that in Interstellar.
With Prometheus, Ridley Scott made a return to this genre and it is just another journey to the cosmos that’s strewn with disaster. Is this just a remix or a new frontier? We have yet to find out. The difference amongst the movies is a lighter tone that we see in The Martian and a much lower ambition. The movie is adapted from the novel of self-published Andy Weir and the plot of the movie becomes clear very quickly as the tale is spun by Scott along with Drew Goddard, the screenwriter for Cabin in the Woods and Lost. A mission is planned for Mars and the task of the six astronauts is to bring back samples.
However, heavy weather throws their plans into complete disarray. Mark Watney (Damon) gets into trouble when debris hits him and he is thrown out of sight. There is no sign of life from him and his communications also go dead. Therefore, the mission is abandoned by rest of his team, which comprises of Kate Mara, Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Aksel Hennie and Sebastian Stan, and they decide to return to Earth. When he regains consciousness, Marks tries to convey a recorded missive to NASA for informing them that he is alive.
The predicament of the astronaut is explored in The Martian as he is stuck on the red planet without any hopes of being rescued anytime soon as the next mission is years away. He has to figure out a plan to survive on the planet, which involves using poo as fertilizer and planting potatoes. (Thank God he is a botanist). It seems as if both Goddard and Scott want to be funny in this area as if they have realized how serious Interstellar was. Indeed, the movie comes off as funny and that’s mostly due to the solo showmanship of Matt Damon, which is quite engaging.
Mark’s video messages are simply going into a void because there is no way they can reach NASA. Yet, Damon is able to communicate with the audience rather beautifully and his relationship is such that you can immediately see when he is going to show us a fit of pique or a burst of irony. There is also no denying that he is excellent at fatigue and finds childish strops fun. In addition, he loves holding back emotion when he has to be practical, which seems rather ongoing in the movie.
Meanwhile, on Earth, NASA finally cops to the fact that Matt is alive and they attempt to send him a message via a crusty old satellite they find in a cupboard. The really epic part is how his return is organized as there are a lot of ingredients needed. These include the Chinese, hexadecimal coding, Sean Bean, a reference made to the Council of Erlond of Tolkein, ‘classified booster technology’, Jeff Daniels, the charming and new Donald Glover, Kristen Wiig, Mackenzie Davis, Chiwetel Ejiofor and some sardonic banter, planning worth a year and quite a lot of geek talk. Basically, it takes a long while for a sensible plan to take shape.
The basic yet sturdy plan for bringing Mark back home is stretched enough to go past the two hours and gets a bit worrisome when it is executed in the middle of the third. As opposed to the verbosity that was seen in some other Ridley Scott’s movies such as Exodus, The Martian’s chatter is in accordance with his obsessions. The movie is about fixing things at the eleventh hour, micromanaging and has a technical and gruff personality. The Martian may be without a villain, but it intersects the low brow with hi-tech and does it wonderfully.