I saw Ridley Scott’s The Martian last weekend. I have a few thoughts…well, five of them…to share about the film.
- Going into the film, I was sure that I had reviewed Andy Weir’s The Martian. I must have had an elderly moment, because there is no review of The Martian on my website. Anyway, my take on the novel is that the author does a fantastic job of setting up life or death situations for Mark Watney to figure out. Watney is a bit of an immature genius. This combination works to the benefit of the book. It is when the point of view switches to that of NASA where my enthusiasm wanes. The author presents us with a set of stock characters straight from a poorly written 1950s science fiction movie.
Fortunately, this is corrected (to a degree) in the film. Scott has cast a lively set of notable actors to portray NASA and JPL scientists: Jeff Daniels, Mackenzie Davis, Chiwetal Ejiofor, Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig, Benedict Wong, and Donald Glover. Great acting can raise the quality of the material.
- Matt Damon as Mark Watney is a solid choice. Damon has played an immature genius before to high regard. With so much of the film relying on Watney’s vlog narration, I presume Scott wanted somebody easy on the eyes who can also pass as a nerd. The crew of the Ares 4 mission is filled with talented actors: Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Michael Pena…but we spend so little time with them they’re nothing more than an outlet for emotional pathos and a plot tool to initiate the plot and provide a convenient climax.
- The nerdy glasses that Mackenzie Davis wore in the film deserve their own short feature. I’ve had a total geek crush on Mackenzie since the first episode of Halt and Catch Fire where she plays a rebellious hacker (really, though, is there any other type?). Her look in The Martian has only deepened this geeky regard.
Mackenzie Davis, will you go to the prom with me?
- SPOILER ALERT: Sean Bean survives! I kept waiting for something terrible to happen. Space debris would fall through the atmosphere and shoot through his heart. Or the director of NASA would order him to make a last second repair to the probe shuttle before take off only to be burnt to ashes as someone fires the rockets prematurely.
- The movie remains faithful to the book, more so than most film adaptations. This pleases me greatly. Though I do wish Ridley Scott had spent two seconds to mention that Watney is also a mechanical engineer. Even my eight-year-old son was dubious that a botanist would be able to rig up all the machinery like he did.
Also, since the adaptation was faithful, I will now see Mackenzie Davis in the Mindy Park role of the source material. This, too, pleases me greatly.
This is a good science fiction film. See it with your family. Then go read the book. It’s even better.