The Martian (2015)
Dir: Ridley Scott
It’s nice to see Ridley Scott back in space, though despite what the title might suggest this film doesn’t feature any extraterrestrials!
Having to abandon their Mars mission suddenly and return to Earth, the crew of the Ares III lose Mark Watney (Matt Damon) in the chaos and getting no readings from his suit he is presumed dead. However Mark’s not dead and now left alone on Mars he has to find a way to survive until the next mission is scheduled to arrive years later.
Firstly I have to say the film looks absolutely superb with cinematography by Scott’s frequent collaborator Dariusz Wolski (‘Prometheus‘). There are widely different locations, the most difficult of these to do well is the surface of Mars which to me was wholly convincing as much was shot in Wadi Rum in Jordan it felt like solid location shooting and not just all being staged in a green room. Sets such as the Mars base and vehicles all add to this as they are beautifully detailed and shown extensively, not shying away from featuring them, with every shot full of brilliant props and costumes that all add to the sense of realism.
There’s a great cast too, it may on first glance seem like a single powerhouse performance film but it’s not. Matt Damon has the main role but the ancillary characters are superb too, all roles are well developed and enjoyable being filled by a variety of cast members such as Jessica Chastain (‘Interstellar’), Jeff Daniels (‘The Newsroom’), Kristen Wiig (‘Despicable Me 2’, ‘Anchorman 2’) and Donald Glover (‘Community’). I expect a lot of the good characterisation is thanks to the original source novel by Andy Weir that’s been adeptly adapted for the screen by Drew Goddard, it works so well as a whole that now I would hazard a guess this is a very strong contender for adapted screenplay.
The film features an unlikely soundtrack, with disco music being all he can find to listen to on the base that’s what we get to hear. This adds to the overall sense of fun with this at times incongruous style of music that Watney hates and keeps criticising. It’s another aspect in which the film is not afraid to be funny, keeping a well judged sense of humour that stays well in balance and doesn’t detract from the film being dramatic especially in certain scenes. I think that it being nominated in the ‘comedy’ categories of the Golden Globes does this film a bit of a disservice, it’s so much more than a comedy even though it is very funny when intended. Clearly it has worked with audiences as it has quickly become Scott’s highest-grossing film to date and stayed in the top 10 at the U.S. and U.K. box-offices for a while.
Needless to say I enjoyed this very much indeed and would like to see it again soon. I will certainly be buying it on Blu-ray when it comes out and possibly even in 3D. There’s so much that I liked on my first viewing and I can easily imagine there will be loads more to get from it on subsequent viewings, plus it was fun so that even if the excitement diminished as I now know what’s going to happen, I imagine the humour and excellent performances will offer much enjoyment.
It deserves to win a few notable awards, with a very small number of critics suggesting it may be a dark horse for the ‘Best Picture’ Academy Award. I think it’s an incredibly long shot but that award should go to films that bring together the key aspects of screenplay, direction, acting and cinematography as well as everything else in a way that works. Without doubt this film does accomplish that but there’s some strong competition from other contenders that also can also be said to do the same. In another year perhaps this might’ve been a frontrunner but I expect it has the prospect of longevity on its side.
‘The Martian’ won Golden Globes for ‘Best Film – Comedy’ and ‘Best Lead Actor in a Comedy’. It is nominated at the BAFTAs in 6 categories for ‘Director’, ‘Leading Actor’ as well as ‘Editing’, ‘Production Design’, ‘Sound’ and ‘Special Visual Effects’ and at the Academy Awards for ‘Best Actor’, ‘Best Picture’, ‘Production Design’, ‘Visual Effects’, ‘Adapted Screenplay’ and others. I believe it’s already available to own on VoD in some places, the formats of DVD and Blu-Ray are available in the U.S. and coming very soon in other territories.