Ridley Scott brought us such cinematic classics as The Gladiator and Blade Runner, but lately, it seems the famed director has lost his touch. Prometheus was underwhelming, The Counselor was a flat out mess, and just thinking about last winter’s Exodus: Gods and Kings sends me into a world of frustration. Simply put… Ridley Scott, you owe us one.
Scott’s latest film follows the trend of recent fall space films such as Gravity and Interstellar which trade big budget action sequences for scientific realism. If you’ve seen those films then you should know to prepare yourself for a movie that is more Cast Away than Star Trek. The Martian stars Matt Damon as Mark Watney, a U.S. Astronaut who gets stranded on Mars after he gets separated from his crew during a violent storm. Presuming him dead, the world grieves until they find out that Watney has managed to not only survive the storm, but also figure out a way to stay alive until a 4 year manned rescue mission can be put together.
Some (the same people bored by Gravity and Interstellar) will be bored by The Martian. The story is often methodical and filled with scientific jargon you aren’t really meant to understand as much as accept. What makes The Martian captivating through its meticulous pacing is a surprising dose of humor thanks in large part to the charisma of its lead actor. Matt Damon’s charm and ability to bring a humbling sense of emotion to his character made me route for him as if he really was stranded alone on a barren planet. The supporting cast, loaded with big names and recognizable faces, is mostly good, but not memorable. The exception is Donald Glover as a quirky astronomer who is hilarious in limited screen time.
Although the journey feels lengthy, it is undeniably fascinating and heartfelt. The movie also provides breathtaking visuals along the landscaping of Mars, although you’d be foolish to pay the extra money for 3D here. Overall, The Martian may not be a classic, or as suspenseful as 2013’s award winning Gravity, but it is an educational and amiable story about human courage and resilience. And more importantly, it is enough to get Ridley Scott back in our good graces.
FINAL GRADE: B+