Film Review by Fiore
The Hollywood genre of the lone man surviving impossible odds with nothing but his own resources, is a favorite in Tinsletown, even though it has met with mixed results. While Richard Harris’ MAN IN THE WILDERNESS was a success, Robert Redford’s JEREMIAH JOHNSON was not. Redford even tried it a second time in ALL IS LOST, which garnered him critical acclaim (though not from this critic), but nothing else. Several years back, the man alone theme was altered to include women with Sandra Bullock in GRAVITY. Now, Matt Damon tries his hand at the man against the odds in THE MARTIAN.
Technically, this film stretches the genre more than a tad. While the film centers around a single space crew member stranded on Mars, there’s plenty of cut-in scenes to his family, friends and mostly, the folk at NASA orchestrating the incident’s spin. This allows extended cameo appearances from Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Sean Bean, Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Mara and Kristen Wiig.
Damon plays Mark Watney. His Mars exploration space trek is cut short by an unexpected super storm on the planet’s surface. While the NASA team retreats to the ship, Watney is impaled by an antenna, and knocked unconscious by its satellite dish. The accident damages his life reading circuits, so the crew believes him dead and begins their long ride home. But, Watney is not dead, and he begins an impossible adventure to remain alive on a hostile planet until a rescue mission can be mounted.
KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:
1. The Iron-Man impression
2. The crew reunion
3. The video diary entrees
Cinematography stalwart Dariusz Wolski provides exquisite shots, on the planet, in space and in character close-ups. The SFX team, headed by Richard Stammers, presents simplistic, yet realistic space sequences. Director Ridley Scott certainly knows a thing or two about space movies. He holds the claim on one of the best space adventures with ALIEN. THE MARTIAN is not as thrilling, nor as epic as the Sigourney Weaver vs. monster oeuvre, but it will satiate the realists who like space, but don’t like aliens, predators nor King Ghidorah.
THE MARTIAN, as a whole, is a bit much to take. It appears to be wrapping up, when suddenly, a new twist is added and a solid 45 minutes is added to a film that already reached its tolerance level. Pietro Scalia, ACE, is not totally to blame. It not that there is unnecessary scenes, it’s that the story, penned by Drew Goddard, is simply too long. Adapted from Andy Weir’s novel, Goddard just tries to put too much in the allotted movie time. At 141 minutes, without an alien to keep things moving, the film lags. An intermission would have helped this endeavor incredibly. Maybe Scott should have talked to Quentin Tarantino.
THE GRADE FOR THE MARTIAN = C.