Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Drew Goddard (based on the novel by Andy Weir)
Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristin Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Summary: An astronaut, Mark Watney (Matt Damon), is stranded on Mars by his mission team who believe him to be dead. Through determination, wit, and creative thinking he survives alone on the planet for over a year.
The Martian should NOT be a Best Picture movie. There are some impressive things happening technically speaking with the special effects and sound, I can appreciate that. The set and costume design are actually very good; the crew’s main ship and its many spinning cabins are quite the spectacle and serve the story well. Matt Damon is very good. He spent most of his time for this film talking to himself on a camera, without anyone to play off of – so the range that we’re able to get from him is impressive, considering the circumstances. (Should he be nominated for the Best Actor Oscar? I’m not sure…)
My biggest problem with The Martian is the screenplay, and as a result of that screenplay, the wasted casting. The story is told in a very linear fashion, with the viewer bouncing around from the perspective of Mark Watney and NASA trying to rescue Watney. Within 5 minutes, I already could formulate a more interesting way to tell this story; more limited perspectives, more of a manipulation of time.
The screenplay set Damon up to be this incredibly charismatic, funny character – and he did that part of this role perfectly. However, after about the third chuckle about him being a badass botanist, I was kind of over it. The story gives Damon absoutely NO time to have an emotional reaction to his situation; he discovers that he is alone and injured, repairs his injury and immediately starts the process of rationing and treats the recording equipment at his disposal as his own personal video journal.
I guess that’s what frustrates me most about The Martian– this is an interesting story! Tell it in an interesting way! Chiwetel Ejiofor is wasted – any one could have played that character – and Jessica Chastain’s character is so flat that, if I didn’t know better, I’d think she was a lesser actress. Ridley Scott gets two of the most talented actors in the business in his film and THIS is how they’re used!? What? (Also, doesn’t it seem weird that Damon, Chastain, and Ejiofor were all in Interstellar… I don’t think they ever shared a scene, but…what?).
Final Verdict: C+, this is an above average space movie that is witty and made me laugh a few times. The tension at the climax of the film is very real, and despite my feeling VERY disconnected from this story, I was very engaged with the final moments. The Martian is visually impressive with special effects, set design, and cinematography. Despite all of those positive attributes, I walked away from The Martian feeling like this project was a missed opportunity to do something much more interesting.
Best Actor in a Leading Role – Matt Damon
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Visual Effects
Best Production Design
Best Sound Editing
Best Sound Mixing
I can understand why this is up for Best Visual Effects, Production Design, Sound Editing/Mixing, and maybe Best Actor. The rest of the nominations I am baffled by, particularly Best Adapted Screenplay. Mad Max: Fury Road shares many of these nominations, and all-around I think that is the superior film.