After redefining science fiction with movies such as Alien and Blade Runner, acclaimed filmmaker Sir Ridley Scott returns to the genre with The Martian, a survival tale starring Matt Damon as an astronaut who is stranded on Mars. Scott has had a hit-and-miss filmography in recent years – both Robin Hood and Exodus: Gods and Kings were disappointing, Prometheus had an iffy script (despite the amazing visuals), and The Counselor was poorly received. Fortunately, however, Scott makes a long awaited comeback with The Martian.
Based on the novel of the same name, The Martian is a smart, thought-provoking movie. The science behind it was fascinating, and the plot had plenty of substance. I was invested in Mark Watney’s story and his daily trials alone on Mars. Speaking of Mars, the planet looks phenomenal. Scott always brings the best visual effects in every big-scale movie he directs - even for underwhelming scripts such as Prometheus and Exodus – and The Martian is no different. His directorial work is stellar as ever, making the movie feel even more epic.
However, The Martian also has a brilliant, intelligent script that was written by Drew Goddard, who was originally planning to direct this movie before dropping out. Goddard’s script and Scott’s direction join together to make a perfect combo. From the Hermes to Mars’ landscape to other scenes in space, The Martian is a visually stunning movie. Fingers crossed it wins the Best VFX Oscar next year, and Scott is at least nominated for Best Director.
The acting in The Martian is also top-notch. Matt Damon almost single-handedly carries the film as Mark Watney. His performance was fantastic, succeeding in portraying Watney’s struggles and wit. Meanwhile, the movie features an all-star supporting cast, featuring Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sebastian Stan and others. Ejiofor was particularly great – then again, when is he not? – and Daniels’ role as the director of NASA is also memorable. I personally would have liked more screentime for Chastain’s character, but she did a great job regardless.
It is hard to pick out specific flaws within The Martian. I have not read the book, so I cannot say how accurate the movie adaptation was. The tone was flawless, fitting the serious nature of the story, but also adding moments of lightheartedness and humor to keep it from being depressing. The story was intense, engaging and extremely interesting. Not too complicated, but just enough to keep you hooked.
In conclusion, The Martian is easily Ridley Scott’s best feature in years. A smartly written script and jaw-dropping visual effects make this movie one of 2015’s best so far. Matt Damon’s performance is also career-best material, backed up by a stellar supporting cast. In an era with amazing sci-fi epics such as Gravity and Interstellar, The Martian fits alongside them wonderfully. If this film is any indication of Scott’s future films, such as Alien: Paradise Lost, then sign me up.