Film Review: The Martian

9:00 am


And now for something a little bit different...

First thing's first: The Martian was probably my favourite book of last year after my boyfriend recommended it to me. He's always earlier to things than I am, but rarely books, so this was an odd situation to be in. But I am incredibly thankful he thrust this book at me quite so enthusiastically. I loved the suspense, the humour (who didn't?), the characters, and the twists and turns the plot took in its progression. I sped through it in very few sittings and felt rather exhausted by the end of it. At this point we knew there was a Ridley Scott adaptation coming, and we new Matt Damon was going to be playing Watney, but little else had been revealed. I've never been the biggest fan of Damon, so naturally I was slightly concerned. As more casting announcements rolled in, my excitement grew exponentially until rather out of control: Donald Glover, Jessica Chastain, Sebastian Stan, Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor. Trailers came out, opinions rose and fell. And then it was release day, nearly a year after the first read.

Naturally, spoilers will follow. A lot of very big spoilers. Only read this if you've seen the film, or read the book, or really don't give a toss about knowing what happens. It's not something I would want to ruin for anyone.

I absolutely bloody loved the film of The Martian, much to my surprise, happiness, and sanity. What a relief to us all. Allow me to break down my love into easy-to-read sections:

Plot: Potatoes. The film basically follows the book perfectly except for a few understandable changes and speeding-up of events. There's not much I can fault it on for that.

Casting: Matt Damon only went and blew my expectations away to the point at which I feel bad for ever doubting him. Jessica Chastain's Commander Lewis was wonderful, serious, and pitch-perfect to what was written of her character in the book. The crew had sufficient mini-scenes and backstory to win me over. Ejiofor's performance was probably one of my favourites in the entire film, as well as Donald Glover's spot-on (if not highly under-utilised) interpretation of Rich. Donald Glover for everything. Donald Glover for life. My one complaint would be Sean Bean's performance, shockingly, as I thought it fell rather flat, and it seemed bizarre to have a character of such few words being played by such a high-profile actor. Special mention to Benedict Wong as the clear-thinking but still very funny Bruce Ng: you rock.

Writing and Tone: Drew Goddard did an excellent job writing such an emotional, human script for such a 'hard science' film. I was impressed by how he managed to take the book and turn it into something new and refreshing, without completely butchering it or losing the humour it had originally. My thoughts on it can be very concisely summed up by what Mark Kermode says in his review on 5Live:


Visuals: I would have a little whinge about how this film falls into the 'orange and blue' visuals category that so many do these days, but it's set on bloody Mars, of course it's going to be orange. Very, very orange. That aside, this film was absolutely visually stunning. Even though I saw it in 2D due to my own personal preference, I can see why people are being prompted to see it in 3D. The landscape of Mars they create is out-of-this-world (pun totally intended); never before had I felt in a film so much like I was on a whole new planet. Even Moon, however much I love it, didn't do that for me.

Score and Soundtrack: As soon as the film started, I was in awe of the score, which reminded me of something from a Fincher film, but with more of a space-vibe, obviously. It's definitely something I want to be released separately to the film so I can listen whilst working. People have compared the use of funky disco songs and space-setting to Guardians of the Galaxy, and yes, there are clear comparisons, but the disco songs were actually in the book throughout, so it's not really something you can call straight-up copying. I thought the songs worked really well both with and against the tone of the film, and the choice of credits song had me chuckling as I left the screen.

Other changes to the book: I'm not usually one for a film epilogue, but the extra scenes added to what was the end of the book, as well as the closing titles, made me smile and I was happy to see how/what everybody was doing years later. Except Watney. He is definitely not supposed to be a teacher. 

A big change I noticed came towards the end when the crew went back to Mars to save Watney. If memory serves, Beck is the one who exits the craft and grabs him, not Commander Lewis. I wasn't too bothered by this chance as it meant more Lewis, and she got to do more badass things, but for me in the book it was the big moment for Beck's character, and without it, he doesn't really get to do much through the duration of the film. This is a shame because I'm a big SebStan fan, and felt he didn't really get the spotlight he deserves in such a wonderful film. 

Another edit from the book is the removal of Watney's rover flipping as he's driving across Mars. I can see why they did it as they sped through all of the driving that takes up about half of the book, plus there are other events (such as the HAB burning) that get the same intense reaction.

And that, my friends, is a not-very-concise, not-very-organised, not-very-clear summary of my thoughts on The Martian. Please let me know if you've also seen the film so we can discuss!

M x

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