Critical Film Review: The Martian

The Martian, 151 minutes of thought-provoking science, controversial decisions about space and futuristic science applications humans have yet to develop.

Matt Damon successfully captures how lonely and isolated a person would feel and how determined he would be to survive. The rest of the cast ably supports the story, particularly Jessica Chastain as Ares III Commander Lewis. While many look at movies such as these as another sub-par film in a long line of astronaut movies, the Martian managed to set itself apart through an astoundingly accurate display of scientific techniques, with Cofield of Space News, 2015, describing it as “one of the most realistic space exploration movies that’s ever graced the silver screen”. 

The Martian opens with the log entry of astronaut Mark Watney, who is the resident botanist and engineer on NASA’s mission to Mars. When they were forced to abort the mission early due to a sandstorm, an antenna punctured Watney. Believing him to be dead, the rest of the crew returned to Hermes, leaving Watney behind, once he gained consciousness and tended to himself, he embarked on several missions to save himself, eventually figuring out how to meet up with his crew and get back to earth. 

The film’s dramatic tension sits on the edge of two questions: Will Watney survive Mars, and can they return him back home? The director Ridley Scott, a deep space veteran, made the Martian the third of his space films — after “Alien” in 1979 and “Prometheus” in 2012 — set beyond the moon. Based on the 2011 novel The Martian by Andy Weir, it’s the funniest, loosest and most optimistic of the group, and an ode to far-out adventuring. Scott managed to make a film that both keeps a significant amount of the book’s hard science while presenting a softer, ”dumbed down” version of science anyone could understand, while making it entertaining for science lovers and haters alike. There are no little aliens or deep thinking (like Interstellar) needed, making it an easy flick that’s different from the usual space adventure. 

This movie truly shows the power of persistence and a celebration of our ability to survive no matter what. It’s a story of a shipwreck, just on another celestial body. While slightly predictable, producers didn’t try to fight it, and rather made the best of the moments they created. Unlike other space films, the Martian is warm and funny, pieces of drama paired with light-hearted writing. Therefore, regardless of preferred genre, The Martian is a film that is worth the time to watch.