By Jamie Rogers
Ridley Scott has had a hell of a career. He’s made multiple films over the years that couldn’t be called anything other than classics, and others that could, and often are, called many other, more negative, things. From Alien, Blade Runner, and Gladiator, to The Counselor and Exodus: Gods and Kings, many would agree that the quality of Scott’s films have dipped as of late, but I’m happy to say that the legendary director has made a return to form with The Martian, a supremely fun, if not inherently flawed film.
Right off the bat, the movie’s cast is without a doubt a stunning collection of talent. Not only does the film star Matt Damon, but also includes performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Michael Peña, Donald Glover, Sebastian Stan, and Kate Mara. Now, as impressive as this cast is and as much as Ridley Scott insisted the film had an ensemble cast, most of these actors play underdeveloped and sometimes even useless roles. Matt Damon, however, is fantastic. He’s the star of the show and it’s very clear. He delivers a fun, witty, and liable performance as Mark Watney, and really holds the movie up. Aside from him, no other character gets much development. When the film isn’t focused on Damon, it devotes the rest of the time to mainly Ejiofor, Daniels, and Bean, as they have the most meaty roles aside from Watney in the “ensemble”. The rest of the cast gets about 10 minutes of screen time individually and the roles really feel like they didn’t need to be played by such big names. That being said, some roles have more justification than others. For example, Jessica Chastain and Donald Glover’s roles are small, but their significant. However, some people like Kristen Wiig are really there for no reason.
On a more positive note, the movie, as I said before, is a lot of fun. It mixes science and humor perfectly and really makes the movie worthwhile. If not for screenwriter Drew Goddard and novelist Andy Weir’s clear giddy love of science and keen sense of humor, the film would be just another space movie, except for maybe the direction. Scott has always been a talented director and he doesn’t let up here. He directs the film with a brisk and engaging pace and makes great use out of current camera technology such as GoPros, which get some product placement in the film, and in this review.
The story, while it moves at a brisk pace, is quite predictable to say the least. The movie is never particularly enthralling and the big finale isn’t all that intense, but as I’ve mentioned, it’s Damon and the fun mix of science and humour that make the film. I’m not sure who’s to blame for the lack of secondary character development, Weir or Goddard, but all I do know is that it’s something that, if fixed, would’ve made the movie a lot better than the great movie it already is.
I seem to be bagging on the films flaws a bit much, because when I look back on the film I had a really fun time. I don’t think it’s the huge blockbuster event of the fall everyone is hyping it up to be, but it’s an entertaining way to spend two hours or so. It doesn’t hit every note you want it to, and it may not live up to your expectations, but it’s still a well directed, star studded space adventure.