Sunday, 4 October 2015

The Martian

I've been a bit disappointed with blockbusters this summer, in fact with films in general. Avengers 2 came out aaaages ago. Mad Max: Fury Road was epic and Jurassic World was really fun and, well, was another Jurassic Park movie, but since then what has there been...? Ant-Man was this summer's  superhero movie (if we ignore Avengers: Age of Ultron which was, as I said, aaaages ago) and it was a bit meh TBH. Yes, everything Paul Rudd does is wonderful, but when there are so many brilliant superhero films coming out these days, Ant-Man didn't do anything particularly special or different. Definitely a stupid move letting Edgar Wright go. Anyway, the point is,  for the first time in months there is a better than average blockbuster in the cinemas and it's The Martian. Thank you, Matt Damon, Ridley Scott.

The Martian starts with astronaut Mark Watney (Damon) being left behind on Mars when his crew (who are doing some sort of science-y stuff on Mars) have to abandon the planet due to a dangerous storm. Watney is knocked out by some equipment and appears to have been killed and only revives once his crew mates are already long gone. Watney has no way to contact earth and it is 4 years until the next mission is due to arrive on Mars. The Ares III mission (Watney's mission) was only supposed to remain on Mars for a few months and so he has limited rations. If he wants any chance of surviving, he has to figure out how to make what he has last for several years at least. As he says, he is "going to have to science the shit out of it". NASA soon discover Watney is still alive and the film flips between earth's greatest scientists trying to figure out how to keep him alive/get him home and Watney doing impressive science stuff on Mars, like devising a way to grow crops on a planet where nothing grows and how to create water. To keep himself sane in the solitude, Watney relies heavily on dark humour.

This film is a lot of Matt Damon talking to himself and making corny jokes (mostly shown through a video diary he is making). Luckily, Matt Damon is super likable and has a subtle charisma which means that he can carry a film like this mostly on his own and pull off potentially lame lines like "Fuck you, Mars!" You get really sucked into the world Watney is building, feeling really great when something goes right and really frustrated when things go wrong. I felt very distressed as the film went on, food started to run out and Matt Damon got more and more emaciated. I may have shed a few tears...

The supporting cast on earth and in the spaceship that has left Mars is also very impressive: Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig and Sean Bean, to name but a few of the familiar faces. Arguably however their collective talent is slightly wasted as most of the screen time is taken up by Damon and the rest is divided between a large supporting cast. But they all play their roles well and make what is quite a long film where not much happens a very entertaining watch.

In this kind of film, it's obviously the ending that's most important: does he get rescued? Will he see earth again? The ending reminded me very much of how I felt watching films like Gravity (inevitable comparison) and 127 Hours: hands clutched to my face in tense anticipation!  I don't want to give away too much so I'll just say the ending delivers.

So yeah, all in all, a good blockbuster, one of the better ones I've seen this year. But now I'm going to have to wait until the final Hunger Games film and the new Star Wars for anything else exciting.