The Martian is a very good film. But did I love it? Not really.
Ridley Scott’s sci-fi adventure tells the story of an astronaut who is presumed dead and left to fend for himself on Mars. What follows is an empowering story of one man trying his best to survive against unspeakable odds. Above all else, the film’s greatest accomplishment is the fact that it made me like Matt Damon. I’ve never been a fan of the actor – I’ve often found him to be a boring presence on screen, but he’s fantastic here, skilfully capturing his character’s loneliness and steely resolve. He’s also surprisingly funny; Drew Goddard’s script injects humor in a lot of dour and hopeless moments, and that stops the film from taking itself too seriously (a welcome move).
However, part of me wishes the film didn’t cut back to Earth so often. The great thing about Gravity a few years back is that it completely immersed you in Sandra Bullock’s plight. The Martian on the other hand often forgets about Damon for long stretches at a time, robbing the film of the impact it could have had. With a painfully long running time (2 hours and 15 minutes), the film’s momentum is halted, and the adventure becomes somewhat of a drag instead of a thrilling rollercoaster ride.
From a filmmaking perspective, The Martian is impeccably shot. With Jordan’s Wadi Rum as a backdrop, Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski creates a genuine sense of place and you never once question that you’re not on planet Earth. The locale makes for a captivating experience, further proving my point that the film should have focused solely on Damon’s character.
Finally, it’s worth nothing that this is the second film in a row in which Matt Damon plays a character stranded on other planet (the first was Interstellar which coincidentally ALSO starred Jessica Chastain). Bizarre isn’t it?
It has its clever moments and its certainly engrossing, but The Martian falls short of being a true cinematic masterpiece.