Movie Review – The Martian

 

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The Martian is based on the best selling book by Andy Weir, it tells the story of one astronaut, Mark Wattney, left for dead on Mars while the rest of his crew head back home in a pretty spectacular storm. The protagonist, Mark (played by Matt Damon) wakes up with half an arial stuck in his stomach and realises he is alone. Faced with certain death it is the story of perseverance and determination of one man to survive against a seemingly impossible situation.

Mark Wattney is one of six astronauts, part of the NASA programme on a manned mission to Mars. While the crew are gathering supplies they hear about a dangerous and deadly wind that is about to strike. True to movie form, they glance up and the giant storm clouds are rumbling in and the storm strikes instantaneously. As they flee to their space shuttle an arial breaks free slamming into Mark and blasting him out of sight. The crew search for him but it is impossible in the blinding conditions and they are informed that he is dead due to not being able to survive decompression. The captain, Commander Melissa Lewis struggles to come to terms with this and continues searching but eventually takes control as the captain and orders the shuttle home leaving Mark  on his own.

 

He comes to, the arial imbedded through his stomach, this agonising and torturous injury and congealed blood has saved his life, by keeping his suit plugged and stopping escaping air. From that moment on it is a  battle of survival as he digs the arial from his stomach in a bloody and gory scene that has you clutching your own stomach in agony at what he’s going through (Matt Damon is an incredible actor)  The next manned mission to Mars is in four years and his supplies won’t last that long. Finding he is alone and faced with such a desperate decision he struggles through endless battles to create his own food, planting potatoes using waste products and creating rain by burning hydrazine rocket fuel which instantly back fires and blows up. His second attempt is much successful and after a bit of time the potatoes have grown.

As the movie goes on is faced by more serious situations. He discovers a Pathfinder which puts him in touch with those back home who have decided not to tell Mark’s crew that he is actually alive. Eventually ‘ goes behind the head of NASA, Teddy’s back and informs the crew. They commit mutiny by changing the direction of the ship heading back to rescue Mark. On the subject of mutiny Mark realises Mars is in international waters and as he is going against NASA that makes him, essentially a pirate, a space pirate. He asks NASA to refer to him as Captain Blondbeard.

He travels to the MAV, the vessel that is to jettison him into space and into the path of the Ares space shuttle. It needs to be considerably lighter so following advice back home jettisons the control panel, windows and replaces the roof with a tarp. As it launches Mark passes out and when he regains conciousness he realises he isn’t in reach of the Ares shuttle who plan to catch him. “Oh great, I’ll wave as I go by.”

With some ingenious inventions such as ejecting part of the Ares shuttle to create enough force to propel the ship closer and Mark doing an ‘Iron Man’ punching a hole in his space suit and controlling the expelled air to jettison him upwards, eventually in a heart stopping finale they are reunited.

 

The scene flicks to Mark safe at home watching runners in a park. He bends down looking at a small plant breaking through the gravel to grow. He smiles, remembering how he colonised Mars and the great ordeal he went through.

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One of the essential concepts of this movie is loneliness and how Mark battles it.  The movie really expresses the loneliness you would feel as a person stranded up on Mars with only yourself to talk to. One of the ways in which the movie achieves this is by showing most of the movie with just Mark in isolation. Whilst there are scenes back home most of the duration of the movie is with Mark as he struggles to get home.

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Mark documents his perils on a video camera and it feels like he’s up there on his own and he is communicating with the viewer, it makes it more personal and touching and you are really rooting for him. Matt Damon really brings a sensitive and strong character to Mark, he’s like an oxymoron in a way, two contradicting statements creating a stronger representation. He’s sweet and kind but strong and determined, humorous and sarcastic. Mark has definitely become one of my favourite characters and Matt Damon a favourite actor. He really was fantastic as an actor, the injury scene was pretty brutal, watching it on the cinema was horrific as it was and it wasn’t different at home. It made you feel actual pain watching it. It was really believable, his breathing was correct he had the right facial expressions.

The Martian uses extreme wide angles and high angle shots to convey the vulnerability of man against an extreme and unforgiving and inhospitable environment. He is faced by more serious challenges every second so that when he does achieve his mission of escaping Mars it feels even more of a triumph to the viewer who has been with him every step of the way. These high angles show how small man is against the force of nature which makes it even more powerful when he does get back safely as he’s battled against so much to get home and the camera angles serve to reinforce this. Low angles are used when the action is in motion such as when the jeep was moving off.

Mark says in space, you solve one problem and then you solve the next and when you’ve solved enough then you get to go home. He faces more challenges and it becomes the worst he can and just when you think he’s about to achieve it something else crops up, the battered air-lock decompresses and explodes breaking his helmet (both which he patches up with duct tape) his crops are destroyed or there’s a problem with the space shuttle. It’s extremely tense but keeping adding drama and more questions holds the viewers attention and there is no way you could walk out of the cinema on this one.

When he ends up at home safe, it feels a shame that they missed all the jubilation of his return and instead shoots straight to Mark sitting on the bench. Yes this is realistic, and synomonous of life, something exciting happens then you go back to normal life and life always starts again. The leaf brings him back to the time on Mars.

Despite the dire situations he continuously faces the movie is not a depressing one, instead it is pumped through with humour, amusing scenes, funny comments especially from Mark who’s character is a sarcastic and humorous one whether he’s remarking on one of the crew’s choice of music or saying he’ll be like IronMan his humour helps him overcome the tense and terrifying moments, ‘they’re saying I’ll be the fastest man because they know I’ll like the way it sounds. I do like it. I like it a lot. Ok, let’s do this.” It seems bizarre to say but it is like a feel good movie and the music is very upbeat and seemingly inappropriate at times but it made the movie very fun and engaging to watch. I still can’t get one of the tracks out of my head.

We met all the astronauts at the beginning but they were really just faces, we weren’t sure of all their characters as there wasn’t time to develop it. And how do you reveal such character when they have little screen time. Well there’s a saying in writing that one of the best ways to find out about someone is by what they do and what other people think about them. And also their characters were shown through the belongings they’d left behind on Mars, all their personal effects that meant something to them. One was religious (shown by the cross of Jesus) one had excessive amounts of dance music one had lots of geeky programmes. It was interesting to see how you could learn about all the characters just through their belongings and what they owned and what they classed as important to take on the mission with them.

On a scientific point of view the movie was packed full with it but it wasn’t presented in an overcomplicated way nor was it shown so simply that the viewer felt demeaned and patronised. Instead everything was discussed clearly and professionally and even a non scientific person could follow it despite the technicality of it. That in itself is a major feat and a very important one as it felt so real.

The only thing that wasn’t quite true was the storm in the beginning that had to set off the whole chain of events. The atmosphere wouldn’t generate a storm so fierce and strong enough to do such damage but it had to be included. However everything else was really researched and the top researchers approved it. When Andy Weir  was writing the Martian knew his subject and kept asking everyone and online for advice asking is this true or as real as you can get.

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And that is the scary thing about the movie, it’s so tense and dramatic because it is all true. It’s not like say, StarWars (as amazing as that movie is) the Martian is very real, extremely close to home, this kind of thing could be happening as I write this. And this movie really illustrates the dangers of space travel and ensures an almost documentary movie.

 

On a note of costume design I like the fact that his space suit was orange and matched the surroundings. Somehow I feel if it had been blue it wouldn’t have fit in with the whole ethos and miss on scene of the movie. All the atmosphere is orange and rusty coloured, everything matches with the landscape and the scenes back home are such a contrast.

In conclusion the Martian is a very powerful movie, moving and uplifting, soaked with scenes of great terror, jubilance, impossibility, uncomrehendable loneliness and rib tickling humour. It’s one small step for man one giant leap for man kind (I’m sorry, I had to include that)

 

 

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