Matt Damon is part of a mars expedition team, who after a storm occurs is left stranded on the planet with the rest of his team unaware of him being not dead. When he wakes up he realises he has to make about a year’s worth of food last him about four. Commence Matt Damon vs Mars.
Before you say it, yes Matt Damon has been left behind on a planet just like in Interstellar. And while Matt Damon and Ridley Scott are saying they are completely different, it is a fairly similar premise because really both films revolve around the rescue trip. What is different is Damon’s performance. Here in the Martian he can be best described as a sassy botanist, as opposed to his character in Interstellar which [SPOILER ALERT] is probably the closest thing the film has to an antagonist (unless you count dust).
I have to be honest I went into the Martian relatively sceptical, Ridley Scott’s movie output in recent years has been pretty poor. What with the racist snoozefest of Exodus, the monstrosity that was The Counsellor and the underwhelming due of Robin Hood and Prometheus. But this is the best film he’s made since 2000’s Gladiator and by quite some distance too. It’s actually dead good.
One thing I don’t anyone expected (other than people who read the book I guess, though I don’t know how similar they are) is just how feel-good it is. Most of the film is just Matt Damon sassing his way through making potatoes out of his own poo, and just generally making quips at his equipment. Sure it’s slightly overlong and though the supporting cast are excellent, personally I would have preferred it if even more of the film was just Matt Damon trapped on the planet. But then maybe that’s just me wanting to watch Moon again.
The supporting cast is actually pretty incredible in that everyone apparently is in it. Everything shot on earth is just a series of “oh, it’s him” and “oh, I recognise her” moments. To the level that even the people with one line or so are recognisable. Nick Mohamed for instance pops up for about two lines and then disappears. If I had a criticism it would probably be that maybe there are too many side characters. I definitely think that Donald Glover’s entire role could have been cut (mostly because he really isn’t any good). I understand that as a book adaptation there are bound to be loads of well-developed side characters, but I think they needed to be a bit more ruthless in their choice of which ones to keep.
It is actually really tense in parts as well, when stuff goes wrong it like proper goes wrong and there are gasps and deep breaths to be had in their numbers. But these moments aren’t allowed to dwell too much, because they are always balanced by Damon sass or simply by playing some of the 80’s disco soundtrack which is a running gag throughout.
Overall, The Martian is a very fine piece of work. I do feel that some of the not Mars bits could and should have been cut, both because they just aren’t as interesting despite the might of an all-star supporting cast, and also to shorten the movie a bit.