Directed by: Ridley Scott
Running time: 2 hours 22 minutes
“How’s Mars?” It’s not a question you hear every day. But perhaps it’s something we could be asking each other in just a handful of decades over WhatsApp, in the same way you might ask someone “How’s Paris?”
In March 2015, when I first reviewed Andy Weir’s novel, I had no idea it was being made into a film. All I knew at the time was that it was truly an inspiring story for generations to come. Now, Ridley Scott and a team of outstanding actors led by Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain have reimagined Mark Watney’s adventure on the big screen. Although there’s a heavy brush of NASA and GoPro product placement, the end result is compelling. While on the one hand Weir’s novel is more something of a technical and scientific masterpiece, Scott’s portrayal is a provoking intellectual and visual spectacle.
The premise is simple enough: astronaut and botanist Mark Watney is left for dead on a planet devoid of life, and must solve a seemingly endless string of scientific problems to ensure his survival before the next Ares mission is scheduled to arrive four years down the track. Despite being over 200 million kilometres away, Scott succeeds in making our closest planetary neighbour feel both beautiful and familiar, albeit treacherous. This is important, because Watney’s predicaments feel strangely relatable, and above all, plausible. As a result, it’s incredibly satisfying participating in Watney’s plight and sharing in his extraordinary accomplishments.
The Martian continues a trend in capably delivered motion picture science fiction (see Gravity and Interstellar). These are compelling films that ask us to think about the world beyond the humanly triviality we face in the day-to-day. They call us to reflect with greater perspective on our individual lives here on Earth, and together as a human race. Ultimately, they inspire a future filled with interplanetary possibilities. I myself imagine a world with long weekends on the moon and gap-years on Mars. And if we all just play our cards right, it could happen. Keep ‘em coming, Hollywood.
Cover image courtesy of 20th Century Fox