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The Martian (Blu-ray Review)

the martianWith a couple Golden Globe wins and lots of Oscar potential, director Ridley Scott has made his best film in a decade, as The Martian delivers on being an exciting visual success, with a tremendous cast making it all the more worthwhile. Matt Damon leads the way in a film about one man surviving 140 million miles away from earth and keeping a positive attitude about everything, while everyone else tries to help. ‘The Martian’ is the kind of film audiences love to see, as it delivers on being well thought out and entertaining.

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Film:

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Based on Andy Weir’s bestselling novel, Damon stars as Mark Watney, an astronaut stranded on Mars. The film is quick to arrive at Watney’s near-hopeless situation and it never heads down any other path not concerned with how to get him home.

Much of the film focuses on Watney’s enthusiastic attitude and technical know-how when it comes to survival. There is also a parallel narrative concerning the people back at earth attempting to find a solution as well. Both sides put in a great amount of effort and this helps propel the story, along with a sense of hope felt throughout.

The film may be an adaptation, but it is the script by Drew Goddard that pushes this film into the stratosphere. Scott is a great visual director, but having a terrific screenplay is what allows him to make truly great films. Thanks to Goddard’s work on The Martian, Scott has the opportunity to make a really a terrific character piece, which just happens to be a big-budget space adventure.

Among the earthlings, we have Chiwetel Ejiofor as Vincent Kapoor, a man determined to figure out a means for getting Watney back home. He is joined by Jeff Daniels and Kristen Wiig, who serve as NASA heads wanting to help Watney, but are challenged by keeping up a good image for NASA.

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You also have Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara and Michael Pena as part of the astronaut team that left Damon behind, and they are all quite good. Sean Bean steps in as well, with the type of confidence that makes you glad he’s in a role where he can’t die. There are many more, but the key cast member is Damon.

Damon puts in the required amount of physical and emotional work here and he makes it look easy. He lets his humor help him maintain his sanity and the film is a lot more entertaining for it. This is why many of the best scenes in the film are the ones where Watney uses science to solve his problems, with the benefit of the film not dumbing it all down. Through all this, The Martian is able to provide a neat sense of discovery and optimism.

Many other films of today choose to believe a single character’s journey must mean highlighting the darkness and despair they face. The Martian is refreshing in how it allows for a survival drama to give us a story that may have thrilling moments, but never diverts from its optimistic attitude. This is fortunate as there is a beautiful-looking film here and it would be a shame to feel depressed while admiring it.

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It is a credit to both the screenplay adaptation by Goddard and the confident direction of Scott that the film is able to play so effectively. Despite being set on another planet and involving a convincing number of visual effects, the film never feels showy in its presentation. There is great work done to bring this film to life, but we always stay invested in the characters, which works so well.

The Martian is both a visually arresting blockbuster and the type of character-driven drama that is usually targeted for awards season. The film presents a convincing story of a man on another planet and provides us with well-acted characters to follow. There is plenty of peril in Watney’s odyssey and the film is always finding entertaining ways to both show and tell. That is what makes it both a well-crafted film and enjoyable for all audiences.

 

Video:

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080P

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail: We’ll get to where this Blu-ray sadly comes up short, but from a technical standpoint, it is as terrific as expected. Ridley Scott does not phone it in when it comes to putting together his films and he has another great-looking film that really shines on Blu-ray. There is a great amount of clarity found both in the Mars and Earth-based scenes and you can really enjoy the level of detail found both in practically-achieved scenes and ones made up of CG elements.

Depth: A great amount of layering can be found in the presentation of Watney against the Mars landscapes. The depth of field in general is feels precise to what is required from great viewing.

Black Levels: Black levels are deep and inky, with a great level of contrast that particularly work in the outer space sequences.

Color Reproduction: There are some very specific colors put on display for the sequences on Mars and they stick out well. The rest of the film also has a nice amount of coloring that really pops when necessary.

Flesh Tones: Facial textures are strong throughout. Whether it is Watney’s face during sequences when he’s cold or the earth-based close-up shots, everyone comes through very well.

Noise/Artifacts: Nothing.

 

Audio:

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Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, English Descriptive Audio 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Dynamics: With a lossless 7.1 audio track, it is no surprise the audio presentation of The Martian is fantastic. While the film is actually very dialogue-heavy, for an outer space survival story, when the film really kicks into with space/Mars action it easily delivers big. You get a great mix of all sorts of audio elements that are balanced perfectly.

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel gets a big boost when necessary and it sounds and feels great.

Surround Sound Presentation: Every channel gets to be in on the fun of this film, as there is a great level of balance served well by the terrific effort put into the mix for this Blu-ray’s audio.

Dialogue Reproduction: All of Watney’s smart-ass remarks are heard loud and clear.

 

Extras:

This is a true shame. I chalk it up to wanting to release this Blu-ray in time for the Oscars, but for a Ridley Scott film, The Martian comes up way short on significant extra features. No amazing documentary, no commentary track, and no director’s cut. One can only hope a second release will happen in the future, but for now, this is all that’s offered.

Features Include:

  • Signal Acquired: Writing and Direction (HD, 9:36) – A short EPK focused on bringing the novel to life.
  • Occupy Mars: Casting and Costumes (HD, 14:13) – Another EPK focused on the casting of the film.
  • Gag Reel (HD, 7:33)
  • Ares III: Refocused (HD, 17:18) – A faux documentary recapping what happened to Mark Watney.
  • Ares III: Farewell (HD, 3:35) – Another faux documentary, but this one is just a small clip that introduces the astronaut crew of the Ares III.
  • The Right Stuff (HD, 3:20) – A humorous clip of the actors in character talking about their isolation training.
  • Ares: Our Greatest Adventure (HD, 3:39) – Neil de Grasse Tyson hosts this faux documentary.
  • Leave Your Mark (HD, 1:03) – I guess this was an Under Armour commercial…
  • Bring Him Home (HD, 1:34) – A fake commercial focused on the world uniting for rescuing Watney.
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:55)
  • Production Art Gallery (HD)
  • Digital Copy of the Film – iTunes and UltraViolet

 

Summary:

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It may seem like a lot, but the extras are pretty fluffy and very disappointing for a Ridley Scott feature. That said, The Martian is a terrifically entertaining feature. Matt Damon is great and the rest of the cast brings their A-game as well. The Blu-ray also looks and sounds as great as expected, which at least makes this a film worth watching at home for the time being, assuming another release is coming. Whatever the case may be, enjoy this film, because it’s a great one.

 

Order Your Copy Here:

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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