During a manned mission to Mars dubbed “Aries III,” a team of astronauts find themselves in the middle of a tumultuous wind storm that threatens to destroy their only chance of getting off the planet alive. One astronaut, Mark Watney, is struck by a piece of metal and presumed dead, thus left alone on the planet to die. The Martian tells his story, one of survival, human ingenuity and the triumph of the human spirit.
With critically acclaimed director Ridley Scott, who is quite familiar with the sci-fi thriller genre (“Aliens,” “Prometheus”) and A-list actor Matt Damon- who has recently appeared in a similar role in “Interstellar” in which he plays an astronaut stranded on a foreign planet seeking to be rescued, as well as an incredibly strong screenplay with both intelligent language and comedic relief, the film is no doubt a hit. With moviegoers showing a more profound interest in otherworldly, outer space based thrillers, “The Martian” is not only sure to entertain, but also inspire with its tale of humanity coming together in pursuit of a common goal and a gratifying ending that will leave viewers satisfied and feeling positive about the story as a whole.
After he is left on Mars by his crew and presumed dead, Watney awakens after being knocked unconscious only to find his suit has been punctured by a piece of the spacecraft. Watney quickly makes his way into the base he and his crew had set up on the planet and takes action to remove the object from his wound, and stapled his skin shut to stop the bleeding. Thus is only the first in a series of many survival-based decisions Watney is forced to make in order to survive on the Red Planet alone. At times, it becomes uncomfortable watching Watney trying to, as he elegantly puts it, “Science the s**t” out of his situation, such as the aforementioned self surgery. Other times viewers will find themselves amazed at the ingenuity and will this one man has to survive, regardless of the odds.
Watney, a botanist-self proclaimed as the best Earth has to offer-finds a way to create water and cultivates an entire crop using dirt from the planet, potatoes and human excrement. All the while, NASA and its associates were striving to find the best possible way to get him back to Earth safe and sound as the entire world watches and cheers on the return of “the Martian.”
One cannot help but be impressed and feel sympathy for Damon’s character. With most of his interactions being nothing more than a monologue into a camera documenting his escapades, Damon does an incredible job making the audience feel as if they have a personal relationship with Watney. Watching his struggles and his triumphs, the audience is taken on an anxiety-riddled emotional roller coaster. This was highlighted particularly for me, when towards the end of the movie, as his rations are running dangerously low, Damon walks out fully nude, ungroomed, his body perhaps at least 50 lbs lighter and covered in burns from the harsh conditions he’s subjected to. However, through all the trials and tribulations, you can’t help but to have faith that somehow, someway this man will make it back to Earth alive. I believe this was what was most impressive about Damon’s job as an actor, that he translated a feeling of hope back to the audience.
Damon, however, was not the only stellar performance in “The Martian.” Several key performances from a wide array of actors including Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels and Sean Bean provided the film with a more serious, businesslike tone, while traditionally comedic actors such as Donald Glover, Kristen Wiig and Michael Pena brought the film comedic relief while simultaneously progressing the storyline in key roles.
Most notable of these performances was that of Donald Glover, whose eccentric genius type character played a crucial role in the attempts to get the protagonist home.
“The Martian” grossed $55 million dollars during its debut weekend, second only to “Gravity” for the highest grossing October release. With the magnificent desert scenery of the Red Planet, rockets jetting through space, detailed space machinery, extravagant explosions or spectacular depictions of spacecraft launching into orbit, the special effects were not only impressive, but incredibly realistic. I would highly recommend seeing this film in theaters as the astounding scenery, space scenes, and special effects all are amplified on the silver screen.