Review: The Martian (★★★★★)

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The Martian is the greatest love letter to science that Hollywood has ever produced. It is perhaps the greatest science fact movie that has ever been produced. I say that as I strongly believe that everything displayed in this movie is absolutely achievable in the very near future. The way that it commands such a depressing situation in a positive light is probably its greatest asset. Ridley Scott has done a wonderful job of not only showing our capabilities in the near future but humanities willing to believe that it’s possible, one that it does not, unfortunately, possess at this moment.

The Martian is the tale of a botanist called Mark Watney, who shall affectionally be called Botany Watney from now on, as he struggles to survive after being left on Mars by his crew after a Martian storm destroys his spacesuit computers, leaving him unconscious in the martian soil.

From the very start, Matt Damon does an incredible job not only making us root for his character but also making us relate to him and his struggles. A lot of debate has circulated around this movie being nominated for several comedy awards, and quite frankly, it deserves them. The humor in this movie elevates it beyond any normal survival movie, such as Cast Away, as it shows us a more human side to desperation in times of need. Despite the movie doing an incredible job of showing the anxiety and hope of such an ambitious space mission, it also perfectly blends comedy in such a way that the audience both understands his hardship, yet aspire to achieve the goal of a manned mission to Mars.

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This praise doesn’t only expand to Damon, but to the majority of the cast as a whole. It is apparent, through the agony they display, that the crew are a tightly woven group that care and respect about one another. This can only be accredited to the performances that the supporting cast give. Jessica Chastain makes a fantastic return to yet another space-faring adventure, but who can blame her? Watching her co-stars in Interstellar get to float around space and not feel a little jealous about it is a completely understandable thing. There are, however, a few rather odd choices in casting, particularly Kristen Wiig and Donald Glover. These comedic actors stand around as the humour revolves around their characters rather than exudes from them, yet that doesn’t detract from their dramatic performances.

The film looks wonderful, as the alien world of Mars is not only shown in all its glory but brought back down to earth through shots that are seen through the lens of the communication systems. You really get a sense that you are viewing a not too distant future, rather than a fantastical depiction of space travel.

The score is also amazing with sections of epic majesty and foreboding danger matching perfectly with the moments that are seen on the screen. The use of disco music adds to the humour, as well as  the hope of this movie, which is not only amusing due to its very nature, but rather its distinct juxtaposition with the harsh growling of the Martian world heard from inside of the fragile settlement.

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The pace goes at a rate that not only keeps you entertained but also feels natural. Issues and problems are spread out in such a manner as to allow the shifts of tone in the movie to feel balanced. The changes between Botney Watney, NASA’s headquarters, and the crew making their way home are arranged in such a great order that their different stories don’t feel, at all, tiresome. There are moments that make you question the editing of the movie, for example when actors say things like, ‘let’s hope nothing goes wrong,’ which flow directly into segments where things do go wrong. It’s small moments like this that pulls you away from the immersion that Scott has worked so hard to attain.

The Martian is one of the best movies I have seen in 2015 and NASA’s use of it to launch their Journey to Mars program only adds to its impact. Everything about this film is both wonderful and awe-inspiring. It’s moments that show the world in stand-still watching, hopefully, as astronauts millions of miles away attempt to complete a mission to Mars that resonate personally with me, in such a way that I can’t wait to do it myself.

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