“It has been seven days since I ran out of ketchup.”
Like all modern space films, The Martian owes a great debt to 2001. Stanley Kubrick’s seminal Space Odyssey seeps through every inch of Scott’s interiors, from the layout of rooms to the striking white and orange equipment. The same isolated feeling is also present, but The Martian refrains from going ‘full Kubrick’, as Interstellar decided to.
Don’t get The Martian wrong. This is not Interstellar. Nor is it Gravity. Nor does it want to be. Instead, Scott’s film is one set in a real near-future.
Andy Weir’s novel is not an action novel, nor is it really a drama; essentially it is a science book. Scott’s picture can also be described in the same way. It is a science film that highlights it’s overlaps with the action and dramatic genres.
The Martian sticks closely to the source material in clearly retaining the distinct humour of the book. Gravity may have had George Clooney to inject character and humour into proceedings, but The Martian spreads its generous comedy across many characters. The often silly and casual style of conversation written by Weir is brought to life with heart and charisma by a cast full of talented comedic performers.
While Daniels, Ejiofor and Bean offer more of the corporate co-operation and occasional conflict, it is those orbiting around them that relieve the tension. Though she hasn’t too much to do, Kristen Wiig is a more believable version of her exaggerated character and the same can be said about Michael Pena. The amount of time spent with our sole Mars-landed botanist rightfully leaves little time for our other characters, as Donald Glover (Childish Gambino, Troy from Community) is only allowed a pair of scenes to do his best impression of Abed (from Community).
Ridley may have garnered all the buzz about his “return to form’, but The Martian doesn’t really feel about him. This is the Matt Damon Show. Damon is charming, charismatic and, true to the book, a bit of a dick. His character, Mark Watney, is isolated, with nobody to converse with except the audience. Therefore, to craft such a lively and entertaining performance is quite a feat.
Most importantly however, he is an everyman. One does not feel that the NASA-accredited space botanist is anything more than a clever bloke. He feels like someone you’d meet down the pub, and after talking about the Arsenal and Jurassic World, he’d bore you with talk of water reclamation.
But again, don’t get The Martian wrong. Awards talk gets banded around a lot this time of year for films that most probably won’t even be in the eye line of Oscar voters. This film will likely build some misplaced Oscar buzz, but would be outrageously lucky to scrape a single nod. This is not a Best Actor performance. This is not a Best Director film. This is not a Best Picture winner. What it is however is a film that shoots for different stars.
The Martian intentionally steers clear of the dramatic space route as that path has been worn, and will continue to be worn, heavily. Instead, The Martian is a film set partly on another planet that ensures that enjoyment is more paramount than excitement or visual spectacle. During it’s extensive duration I was never bored, never looked at the time, nor did I want it to end. I laughed a lot, I nodded with agreement and I almost cried.
As long as you aren’t expecting Interstellar, The Martian will most certainly float your boat. (Or launch your rocket. Something like that.)
Header courtesy of newsweek. Images courtesy of foxfilm, manila-life and foxfilm respectively.