Marooned on Mars and presumed dead after a severe dust storm forces the crew of Ares III to abandon its mission, astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) must battle against the odds to survive on the Red Planet until a rescue mission can be mounted. The Martian is essentially Cast Away in space with a generous helping of MacGyver and Apollo 13. Based on Andy Weir’s hit novel of the same name and directed by Ridley Scott (Alien, Gladiator), Damon leads an all-star cast that includes Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Donald Glover, Sebastian Stan, Michael Peña, Sean Bean, Benedict Wong, Mackenzie Davis, and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Weir’s somewhat goofy but always scientifically accurate source material is the perfect match for screenwriter Drew Goddard’s sensibilities. The Cabin in the Woods scribe skillfully streamlines what didn’t work in Weir’s book – namely by limiting Watney’s often grating inner monologue and self-congratulatory technobabble – turning the astronaut into a charming goofball who’s very easy to root for under the circumstances, while keeping the proceedings funny, tense, and extremely entertaining all the way to the truly nail-biting finale. Director Scott, ever the gifted visualist, proves once again that he can really do no wrong when paired with a great script. From the stunning Martian vistas, gorgeous production design, and top-notch visual effects – not too mention a strong 3D treatment that actually adds to the film – you’ll be hard pressed to find a better looking Hollywood movie released this year. The film is firing on all cylinders.
The Martian is easily one of Ridley Scott’s best efforts in years and a wonderful showcase for all involved. Between Gravity, Interstellar, and now this, it seems that the blockbuster space drama is here to stay. Now if only our actual space programs could catch up with these amazing tales of exploration being brought to the screen.
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