Minutes into The Martian, Matt Damon’s Mark Watney says “I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this” and I swear I chuckled so loud that the guy next to me was eyeballing me. I never thought I’d be in for a treat going for Ridley Scott’s The Martian. Of course I am a huge Scott fan but his last two movies were a bit too tiresome to sit through. The ageing director’s prowess felt bumbling a bit, but The Martian proves that he’s still got it. This is Sir Ridley Scott’s awesome Comeback!
Lets get the obvious stuff outta the way. NO, I am not going to compare Interstellar or Gravity or even Apollo 13 with this one. ‘Apples, Oranges and a PERIOD’ is what I’d add if anybody’d even start to argue about the same. The Martian sits cozily in a niche that Scott has carved so well.
The Martian is a straightforward sci-fi drama about an astronaut stranded on Mars. It is about his sheer will that he “wont die on Mars” and upto his wits to survive in hopes of a rescue team to arrive. Its equal parts drama, sci-fi and survival genre and it never tries to be anything more than that. There is nothing that’s too complex to comprehend, nothing that beckons for multiple viewings and despite its flaws it comes out a winner. The flaws were too obvious and felt deliberate as if Scott wanted us to ignore it and go with the flow. I had already sunk into the fact that there were so much flaws and to think about the same while watching the movie would ruin it for me. And it did wonders for me! What you get is a well acted, well written, visually arresting and unambiguous sci-fi movie with chuckloads of comedy and tension to plough you till the finale.
The Martian is a Matt Damon show! He was never a bad actor but his post-Bourne roles never needed much of an effort. Scott opened an awesome sandbox for Damon where he makes the most of it. The ‘log files’ worked out for a great mechanic that was used to document most of Watney’s life on Mars and it felt like Damon was interacting more with us than a video capture device. A stellar supporting cast also supplements The Martian‘s narrative. The AAA cast included Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Michael Peña, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Mackenzie Davis, Donald Glover and instead of overcrowding the movie, each one of their performances were memorable. Even Donald Glover’s barely 5 minute of screentime remains etched in my mind. Agreed it was much more fun watching Damon ‘Science-ing the Shit out’ but at the same time the supporting felt integral and never came off as a ‘me too’ addition.
The Martian could have easily been a tense drama or rather have an over-all grim tone but it successfully injects well paced comedy and balances out the tension and drama. Thanks to Drew Goddard the comedy in The Martian doesn’t feel forced. Get me started on the licensed tracks in the movie and I might not even stop; brilliant selection of licensed tracks that gave the movie a quirky beat.
Sci-fi need not be mindbogglingly complex or have logical explanation for every damn detail on screen or even demand multiple viewings. Most of yesteryear’s sci-fi classics focused more on ‘fiction’ than ‘science’ and it worked out well. I loved The Martian more than Interstellar or Gravity. I am no scientist and I am not here to argue about the plausibility of everything that happened in The Martian. I was there for entertainment and boy, did I get it served hot! Absolutely terrific performances by Matt Damon and the supporting cast, superbly written by Goddard and all executed perfectly well by Sir Ridley Scott. Come to think of it, even the the recent discovery of liquid water on Mars feels like a huge Marketing stint for The Martian.