The Martian (7/10)

The Martian

Help is only 140 million miles away.


During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.

Title The Martian
Director Ridley Scott
Director of Photography Dariusz Wolski
Runtime 2 h 10 min
Certification PG-13
Release Date 2 October 2015
Tagline Help is only 140 million miles away.
IMDb Id tt3659388

If humanity should have learned anything from the movie “Interstellar” it was that sending Matt Damon into space always ends badly. True to form, here he is a botanist on an exploration mission to Mars, and things go awry. Although Ridley Scott had NASA as a scientific advisor they did seem to use some poetic license when it came to the opening sequence, where a violent storm forces the mission to be aborted and the crew to blast off into space and return to earth (Mars gets dust storms but its thin atmosphere means that the storm would almost certainly be far less damaging than portrayed in the film). An apparent casualty of the storm is Matt Damon’s character Mark Watney, who is assumed to be dead by the crew as they set off on the return journey to earth.

In fact Watney survived, and he is left alone in the Mars habitat that the crew had set up for the mission. He has no obvious way to communicate with earth or the departing ship, and has insufficient food and water to sustain him for anywhere near the amount of time it would take to mount a rescue mission, even if he could make mission control aware that he was alive.

The film is the story of the ingenuity that he brings to bear to solve this seemingly insurmountable set of problems. One difficulty with a film like this is in sustaining the tension. We know from the trailer that he is trapped on Mars, and given this is Hollywood it seems unlikely that Mr Damon will be dispatched by a medical problem or radiation exposure and die a lonely death (which is surely what would happen in reality). Hence it is difficult to keep the story going with enough action and twists to make it entertaining. Despite this Ridley Scott and his cast does a pretty good job of things. Matt Damon’s performance is impressive given that he is on his own on the planet, and there is enough humour to keep the movie from being just an advert for science classes, though it certainly serves as that. The visual effects are good and, violent storm aside, the story seems to be scientifically plausible. The direction is skilful and the story is well enough told that you do engage with the likeable Mr Damon, rooting for him as the inevitable obstacles occur that are between him and a safe journey home. There are some minor plot niggles but overall this is an enjoyable, well-made piece of entertainment.


The Martian (7/10)
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