Review: The Martian


Andy Weir’s ‘The Martian’ is a light-hearted adventure, unlike the recent wave of wave of space epics, says Stephen Elliot.


The Martian is the latest addition to the recent trend of big-budget space travel adventures all the rage in Hollywood right now. However, this film’s plot (based on an Andy Weir novel) has a surprisingly realistic feel to it than would be expected from a movie about life on Mars, taking it out of the sci-fi genre and into a potential future reality.

During a ferocious storm, a manned mission to Mars is aborted and the crew hastily depart for Earth but injured agent Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead and left behind. When Watney wakes up he fights for survival on the red planet, growing his own food and establishing a communications system with Earth. NASA, obviously embarrassed to learn Watney is alive after all, plan a mission to return to Mars and bring him home. Kirsten Wiig plays the NASA media manager who deals with the complicated PR mess while Chiwetel Ejiofor and Sean Bean play the NASA brains entrusted to get Watney back home.

Unlike recent space epics Gravity(2013) and Interstellar (2014), The Martian is a light-hearted space adventure filled with humour. This is more of a comedic survival story than it is an action thriller. Damon’s ‘good sport hero’ always remains optimistic about his return home and the film is set against a bizarre but nonetheless enjoyable soundtrack of disco classics including ABBA and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”.

If you’re a science head this film is definitely for you. The Martian prefers science and technology thrills over big stunts and explosions. The sequence in which Watney creates artificial oxygen and rainfall on the planet would excite any self-confessed nerd. However if you’re not easily thrilled by mathematics, botany and technology, don’t fret. The Martian is an enjoyable flick nonetheless filled with humour and stunning scenes of Mars and space, making the most of 3D effects.

The supporting cast is perhaps too large for a film where the main character spends most of his scenes in isolation. Also at times The Martian seems like one long advertisement for NASA – to renew interest in space exploration. Just this week NASA revealed water had been found on our neighbouring planet. There has been much speculation online that their discovery of water on Mars is a well-timed publicity stunt. Either way, this film comes at a time when the impossible is becoming a reality and the possibility of space travel to Mars is no longer the stuff of sci-fi dreams.

The Martian is a story about the resourcefulness of the human spirit and strength of will even in situations of the unknown. It’s emotional, funny and even camp. And with Gloria Gaynor of all people motivating our hero to get home, it’s a survival story out of this world.


 ‘The Martian’ hits cinemas today (September 30)

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