The Martian is one of those rare moments where I went into the movie knowing full well what was going to happen. No, I’m not clairvoyant. I read the book written by Andy Weir. However, what makes the headlines even more interesting besides me reading a book is the fact that Andy’s novel was first self published in 2011. It wasn’t until 2014 that the world really knew of Andy’s work here when Crown Publishing purchased the rights. How do you like those apples? Pretty damn impressive, huh? You know it! And you also know sooner or later with Mars One in the mainstream headlines everything is going to be about Mars so you better just get used to it now. However, what’s not to love with Ridley Scott in the director’s chair here? Oh yeah baby! So sit back and blast off with me as I take you to Mars and back below with The Martian.
Before we deep dive into the movie I wanted to spend a few moments discussing the brilliance of author Andy Weir. He’s the son of a particle physicist and has a background in computer science. That’s all fine and dandy, but if you read The Martian, you would know what I am talking about when I say this guy’s attention to every last detail is absolutely amazing, from the tracking of days to the technology that was employed. He is rumored to have began writing the book in 2009, researching related material so that it would be as realistic as possible and based on existing technology. He studied orbital mechanics, astronomy and also the history of manned spaceflight. He evens claims to know the exact date of each day in the book. That alone is amazing (will make sense when you read the book).
The history of the book also goes a little something like this, again equally amazing. When he finished the book Weir decided to put the book online in serial format one chapter at a time for free on his website. He also made an Amazon Kindle version available at 99 cents. The Kindle edition rose to the top of Amazon’s list of best-selling science-fiction titles and sold 35,000 copies in three months, more than what had rumored to been previously downloaded for free. This obviously garnered the attention of many publishers and brings us full circle now with how Crown got their paws on it. The rest as you know is history. A movie was made about this piece of literature. That’s what we’re here to talk about today. Three…two…one…blast off!
So the story goes that 20th Century Fox optioned the novel in March 2013 as Drew Goddard was hired to adapt the property into a screenplay. I already spilled the beans on Sir Ridley Scott directing this, but I neglected until now to tell you all the star power this film has going for it. Obviously Mat Damon gets the main bill in the titular role here, but the film also features big, bright names such as Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover and even Mackenzie Davis from TV’s Halt and Catch Fire (love that show!).
Matt Damon’s character, Mark Watney, is what Tom Hank’s character was to Cast Away. There’s a little more interaction so that’s not necessarily a true comparison, but for the better half of the movie Damon is on his own making it work in the entertainment department, whether non-verbal cues or spoken sarcasm. You see, just like the part of the character written in the novel, Matt Damon is Mark Watney (I have to give props to Harry Knowles for that one). His voice emulates the character and I seriously couldn’t see anybody else playing him despite my initial hesitation that I felt like going in that I already seen this version of Damon in last year’s Interstellar. If you feel like that too, wipe that from your memory banks because you couldn’t be further from reality here. Reading the book, however, can instantly break those beliefs too, but it’s up to you as to whether or not you want to be fresh going in or know everything that was about to go down. As you already know, I am the latter, but I couldn’t have been happier with the film’s overall outcome. However, more on that in a bit. Let’s take a moment to chat about what The Martian is really all about.
So if you guessed this was a space exploration movie gone awry, ring the victory bell twice. Nothing gets buy you! Damon stars as an astronaut who is presumed dead and left behind on the planet Mars when like I said, a situation goes awry. The rest of the crew must leave him, thinking he’s dead of course, in order to preserve their own lives. If you do the simple math, it’s basically keep alive five astronauts or lose them all trying to save someone who’s probably already dead. So the remaining crew say bon voyage to Mars in a desperate attempt to vacate the surface before the ferocious storm narrowly consumes them. That’s how the film opens, ladies and gentlemen. They waste no time in getting you into the heart of the story, much like the book does. For lack of a better term, Mark is alone. In reality, he’s the only one on the planet. That’s how alone he is. Can you imagine that? Wow!
It’s all up to Mark as to whether he lives or dies. Damon’s character, unsure of his fate of course, decides to chronicle his days on the planet by entering video diaries, which at times are gut busting hilarious. Why? It’s because of the rich ways that Watney’s character is written and the ways in which he choses to communicate despite being desolate. He’s a wise cracking botanist who attests to the fact that he’s not going to die there. He’s going to have to science the sh1t out of what he has available and improvisation takes precedence throughout. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly what he does. The science and the way he improvises will marvel you here. Now only if they presented science like this in high school, I would have never been bored. So anyway, Mark has to fight to survive the dire situation he is in. It’s both a physical and mental fight, that’s where the science comes in of course. However, his will power transcends with one key objective in mind, find a way to contact Earth. Therein lies the way this film is different than Cast Away, we have interaction and events taking place on Earth, not to mention the crew of Hermes that left Mark stranded there too. When NASA finds out that Mark could be alive, that’s when the real fun and games begins on both planets. Haha. It sounds weird saying that, but it’s true. NASA will attempt to move mountains to bring their stranded hero home. Whether their successful or not, you’ll have to find out. No spoilers here!
There were obviously some key moments excised from the book by Andy Weir, but nothing that was discerning. I was only bummed about one sequence that was excluded, but I got over it because the majority of the film is a cinematic wonder. It looked great, never felt cheesy and most of all, I was entertained. So much so, that this is a Day 1 Blu-ray purchase for me. When I say something like that, it’s when you can bank on the fact that I heart this movie. There was science, technology, wonder, space, unchartered frontiers, awe, gasps, action, comedy, thrills, bumps, bruises, gore, peril, tension and above all else, heart. The actors, some more than others (I’m looking at you Sean Bean), excelled in their respective roles and brought much needed life into some that may not have been originally written that rich. There were of course some mild changes in the characters as to how they are in the book, etc., but if you never read it, how the hell would you know that anyway? Haha. In other words people, you will love The Martian. How could you not? It’s almost like your patriotic duty to this nation to do so. You picking up what I’m dropping? My only takeaway from this film earning a perfect score is I wanted more conflict and peril. In particular, the one scene that I make mention of up above that was cut from this film would have been a great moment of conflict for Mark’s character to overcome. So in other words, you’ll just have to settle for close to greatness. Thats’ still A-OK in my book. Enjoy!