Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Martian (2015)

Director: Ridley Scott
Writers:  Drew Goddard, Andy Weir (Book)
Cast:       Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor

During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and is left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on a hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.

It is an adaptation of Andy Weir's 2011 novel with the same name and keeping in with its tone the film also uses humor to convey the story. I haven't read the book and so I cannot comment on whether the film did justice to it but I had a great time watching it. If a film can bring a tear to your eyes at the right point of time then it means that they got it more or less right. It doesn't really try to stress on the psychological aspects of being stranded on an alien planet and works more like a survival story based on botany and engineering. What we get from Matt Damon is a consistent attitude throughout the film laced with humor and wit. One of the biggest challenges in these kind of films is  to do expositions in a smart way and this film got a lot of it to do since he is sciencing the shit out of it to survive. Most of it is done by making him talk to the on-board cameras as he documents it and many times he is talking loudly to himself, a natural thing to do to keep your wits in such a scenario. I felt they gave enough respect to audience's intelligence and it didn't feel like they were doing too much explanation of the stuff that is happening. I am sure Honest Trailers will edit out enough footage from it to make you feel the opposite. 

Ridley Scott is bit of a hit and miss these days and is someone who is widely considered to have peaked quite early in his career with Blade Runner and Alien. 'Thelma & Louise' and 'Gladiator' are also considered as great films by many but i disagree on the latter which I think is overrated. 'The Counselor' got universal hatred while I actually enjoyed that film immensely. 'The Martian' will certainly be considered to be among his best films. He is 78 now and still going strong. As it stands, my ranking of his films, that I have watched, is as follows (with lot of stress of rewatchability):

  1. Blade Runner
  2. The Martian
  3. Alien
  4. The Counselor
  5. Thelma & Louise
  6. Kingdom of Heaven
  7. Gladiator
  8. Black Hawk Down
  9. Prometheus
  10. Body of Lies
So, overall, the Martian is a great watch and I regret the fact that I missed it during its theatrical run. I would have caught it had it was made available in any format other than 3-fucking-D. Most of its set were built in Budapest, Hungary and the Martian looking scenery was took from Wadi Rum, Jordan- a popular destination for Mars based films. No Astronaut movie would be complete without a David Bowie number and it is the 'Starman' song of his that gets used in this film. As far as space/alien planet based films go, I think it will be among my all time-favorites along with Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey' and both these films couldn't be further apart in tone. If I were to compare with films from recent times, the obvious candidate would be Gravity which was all about getting the viewers experience space through its stunning visuals in 3D with a simple survival story to support it. 'The Martian' is more about the mechanics of survival and will age more gracefully with time since it got a more interesting central character and lot of other things. It is the highest grossing Ridley Scott film till date with a worldwide gross of close to $600 million. 

PS: It is a habit of big budget Hollywood films these days to pander to Chinese audience as it is a big market. The Martian manages to do that in the most graceful manner possible and it was also refreshing to see it not opting to put the possible monetary discussions that would have gone on if such a scenario occurred as well as any nationalistic jingoism. It is a feel-good-film that was done very right. 

Rating: 5/5

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