I knew the moment after the movie ended that I would have a hard time writing the review of this film. I have read (and loved) the book, and I am not distancing myself from that in this review. I’ll explain this later on.
Matt Damon plays Mark Watney, an astronaut stranded on Mars after being presumed dead when a dust storm forces his crew to evacuate their base without him. Watney must find a way to contact NASA while also surviving on a planet without food or water.
The focus is clearly on Damon’s character but maybe more interesting are the team of humans back on earth lead by Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Jeff Daniels that attempt to science the poop out of things themselves in an attempt to orchestrate a spectacular rescue. Their pooling of minds will draw reference to NASA’s brain trusts in Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 and is riveting the exciting to watch unfold though the emotion of the colleagues.
I think where the film lacks is surprisingly its editing. What let me down was how little Damon’s crew was in the film. That dynamic between all of them could have been explored whether it be flashbacks or just through the NASA message system. Especially with it’s cast, it just seemed like a bit of a missed opportunity. Especially towards the end when I’m supposed to feel a rush of emotion, instead I felt a letdown.
But the film does a great job of bringing to life scenes that should seem boring and dry. That can be contributed to Ridley Scott’s directing and Matt Damon’s likability as an actor. That’s one of the things The Martian does extremely well, it’s really well paced in terms of entertainment level. You don’t feel the length.
BUT here comes my main problem, although I’m trying not to affect it in my review to much….
Now look, there are many ways to adapt material, and in a sense, The Martian is somewhat faithful to the book it is based on. Obviously you can not fit an entire book into a movie, so you would have to skip parts of the plot, etc.. The book where the movie is based on is in large parts the astronaut’s first hand account of what is going on, the logs he writes. The movie has him making video accounts of the same, so we can hear the character say the lines instead of writing them. All of this makes sense.
But what I disagree with, was what the movie decided to put its main focus on. It has picked a couple of moments from the book and spent quite a lot of time on them, and fast forwarded through the rest. This has the effect of making Watney’s stay “easier” then it is in the book and loses a lot of its tension. To me, the book was at its most interesting when Watney was coming up with great solutions, and explaining how he did so. The movie has some of this, but skips most of explanations, choosing to rather “show than tell” (which you’d think be a good thing) and they even rewrote a couple of the great and hilarious one-liners in the book. What they did was turning a brilliant story into a decent one and this was very disappointing to me.
That said, I thought they picked great actors to play all of the roles. I wish the movie all the best, but would really have preferred if it was done differently. I don’t know how, but for this movie I would not have minded an almost continuous voice-over (it worked for Mr. Robot). Or at least for the movie to be longer.
The Martian gets a 7.0/10.