“The Martian” is a space odyssey film directed by Ridley Scott. Matt Damon stars as Mark Watney, an astronaut who becomes stranded on Mars after a severe storm prematurely disrupts a NASA mission. Presumed dead, Watney must survive the red sands of Mars for four years and wait until a rescue mission can hopefully save him. On a planet with no food and water, he must grow plants and ration what he has in order to live for a destined future.
The movie is based on the best-selling book by Andy Weir. The movie, like the book provides thrilling space action, combined with humor in a thrilling mix of “Apollo 13” and “Castaway.” “The Martian” has had a lot of buzz within the last couple of weeks and I had to determine if the buzz was really worth what I was hearing. Unfortunately, I feel like this film is severely overrated. Before people jump up and down and scream at me, I will explain. First off, the comedy in the film while amusing, didn’t quite work for me. The comedy felt really forced and out of place, even for Matt Damon. Second, the comedy mixed with a serious and edgy tone made the film feel really daft. I couldn’t help but scratch my head as I kept trying to figure out the tone that this movie was going for. To me it was all over the place. Scott’s last film, “Prometheus,” had the same design of spacesuits that were worn in the “Martian” and I didn’t quite like how similar they both were. Especially the flashlights on the helmets, it felt too plagiarized for me. I thought the visuals of Mars were stunning, but all of the other space action scenes I felt like I already saw. “Prometheus,” regardless of what people thought of it, was gorgeous to look at, and “The Martian” didn’t capture the awe and the majestic the way “Prometheus” did. Since “Prometheus,” there have been two other space movies, “Gravity” and “Interstellar,” which I thought looked better and felt better in tone. “The Martian” didn’t have those jaw dropping moments that any of those other films had.
Another major issue I had with the film was the pacing. At times, the film moved at a really brisk pace, but then it suddenly came to a complete halt. Then the pacing would pick up again and then crawl to a meandering slow. The pacing threw me off and I kept checking my watch, wanting the film to get good again. The last and biggest issue that I had with the movie was the stakes. There weren’t any. Without spoiling anything, let me just say that these characters don’t ever really find themselves in any real danger. The movie tries to show the danger, but in the end every one is treated like a superhero. I didn’t buy it all. They say in the film that out in space everything tends to go wrong. The movie never really backed up that claim and by the third act, I easily predicted what was going to happen with the characters. For me, a movie without raised stakes, especially out in the middle of space sinks the film as you can kind of guess the natural outcome of all the characters. I didn’t buy this ending for one second and I felt almost betrayed by the ending.
Matt Damon was really good in his respectable role at Watney, but honestly he had no character development whatsoever. Near the end of the film, the filmmakers wanted this huge emotional moment with the character and it didn’t work because by the end of the movie, I still had no clue who this person was. I knew he had parents but the movie never divulges into who the character is. Unlike “Castaway,” Tom Hanks’ character had a huge developmental arc and by the end you really feel that emotion. Especially when we see Wilson float off into the great unknown. I didn’t feel any of that emotion whatsoever with “The Martian.” I have been rambling about the bad stuff, but on to the good. The movie is entertaining and I think a lot of audiences might be very pleased with the outcome of “The Martian.” The acting is great and the side characters were really standouts. Jeff Daniels plays the head of NASA and he was excellent in this film. Chiwetel Ejiofor was also great in this movie as was Sean Bean. Unfortunately, the crew of the Ares was underused and the players didn’t have a lot to do as far as dramatic acting goes.
Ridley Scott is one of a kind and he constantly is delivering top notch entertainment. “The Martian” is no exception. It is thrilling and has some amazing action sequences and is sure to be a real crowd-pleaser. But deep down the film has an enormous amount of flaws, a lot which were all too visible for me to take. As much as I enjoyed the film for what it was, the obvious flaws were really disappointing. If critics are saying this has Oscar caliber then I don’t see it. For me, the film is very overrated and just didn’t leave me satisfied the way I wanted it to.