Monday, 19 February 2018

Film Review No. 36 The Martian (12+)

Strong Points:
Great acting from all
Realism
Use of music
Simplified enough for science to not be written off as 'mumbo-jumbo'
Tense
Found yourself rooting for the character
Atmosphere of happiness and hope

Weak Points:
Some weak areas in CGI
Could be seen as predictable
Takes a short time to find its feet
Supporting characters were slightly one-dimensional

Some spoilers ahead:

In-depth Review:
From Saving Private Ryan to Good Will Hunting and now The Martian, Matt Damon always needs to be saved. Sometimes its from other people, sometimes from the elements and sometimes even from himself, but he seems to always need saving. This film is no different, but what is different is the sense of hope derived from the situation.

While bad things happen to Mark Watney, he just breathes, looks at it a different way and succeeds. So do all the other characters. As he states in the final section of the film 'you can either work at a problem or fail'. That's the main idea of the film and I found it quite inspiring to be honest - it showed you don't need dark backgrounds or betrayals in the office to make a good film. Sometimes, even botany is enough.

The use of science in this film was one of the standout features of the film. It wasn't so detailed and overflowing with jargon to make even an astrophysicist not understand, but it wasn't so simplified where it seemed to just work. Instead we had solutions to slightly accentuated problems (the storm was increased in intensity for dramatic effect). Just being able to watch it all work was one of the most exciting things about the film, and you shared in the elation of the characters when they did make it work.

None more so than Mark Watney, Matt Damon's character in the film. While there's plenty of other characters all doing important jobs throughout the film, Watney is the real star. Talking mostly to himself/the audience via video diaries, Damon is able to captivate the audience with little comments here and there. These serve not only to tell us his plans, but also ensure we know his mood and feelings. Therefore, when things go right we laugh and cheer with him, and when things go wrong, we feel as bad as he does. One particular example is when the potato crops die and Watney's looking out at the destruction. The room of 5 people watching the film all let out a 'noooo' when this happened.

If there was a scale of development between the characters, I'd say Watney 80%/rest of the cast 20%. That's not to say I left the film thinking I needed to know more about them - the thinly layered characters helped to streamline the plot, but a little bit more for them all would have been nice. This is especially true due to the star-studded cast, where I started to identify the actors instead of characters mostly when talking about them.

The humour was excellent throughout the film, from the constant references to Captain Melissa Lewis's music tastes, to Watney's botany expertise and retorts to some of the more 'extreme' advice given by the NASA operatives on Earth. The film also slowly unveiled how many 'firsts' Watney would have, namely, being the first colonist of Mars, first person alone on a planet and finally, the first space pirate. If you're stuck on a planet and have a choice to be Matt Damon's character in Interstellar or The Martian, choose The Martian. Also, the aforementioned music choices were great, adding an extra dimension to some of the scenes, especially as you knew that once one song finished, something drastic was about to happen.

Overall, the graphics were great, especially the backdrops. I wouldn't say they were as amazing as Gravity and relied slightly too much on digital recreations unlike Interstellar, but they showed off The Red Planet well enough. The 'Mars' background and detail on the NASA ships/mission control were very impressive however, and the colour palette brought attention to what was important - namely, life.

While I won't go into too much detail about the ending here, let's just say it's a good, albeit predictable one. While the film's definitely not devoid of tension, the atmosphere surrounding the film puts you in a certain sense of security. You believe that they will overcome any odds, even when some are incredibly high (thank you secretive Chinese space program).

Conclusion: overall, this is a superb space film. It's also a great end to the trio of space films which were released over three years: Gravity, Interstellar and The Martian.

Rating: 90%

Thanks for reading, Satamer.

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