Movie Reviews: 'The Martian' A Second Opinion



Is Hollywood entering a renaissance of space exploration movies? Possibly. In 3 years, we’ve gotten an abundance of high budget space tales, including names such as Guardians of the Galaxy, Gravity, Interstellar, and most recently, The Martian. Luckily for the fans, The Martian is the best of the bunch.

Led by Matt Damon, this all star cast includes Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Jessica Chastain, Sebastian Stan, Sean Bean, Donald Glover, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mackenzie Davis, Aksel Hennie and Naomi Scott.

The story is actually quite simple: a man named Mark Watney and his crew are sent to Mars, and when a fierce storm hits, Watney gets separated from his crew as result of a piece of flying debris. His crew then leaves Mars assuming he is dead; little did they know, however, he miraculously survived the separation and now must find a way to survive on the planet, and contact NASA.   

Like John Campea over at Collider, I have a rule when it comes to films being made from books. The rule is that I will not read the book that a certain film is being adapted from (with the exception of “The Hunger Games” series). Following this rule, I hadn’t read The Martian before I saw the movie. After the film ended, I heard some folks from the same theater as me mentioning that the jokes in the book were executed better than in the film itself, and I find this hard to believe. Somehow, The Martian managed to be an ‘edge of your seat’ drama, while maintaining a sense of silliness throughout it’s 141 minute runtime. I’ve never been much of a Damon fan myself, but I’m definitely going to take a look at some of his previous work because of this role. His captivating performance almost reminded me of Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler.  One minute he’d be joking and showing off his sarcastic wit, next thing you know he’d be realizing the awful situation he is in, showing outbursts of anger and frustration. Now I’m not saying Damon did as good of a job as Gyllenhaal did (because he didn’t), but he gave a multilayered lead nonetheless.  Now enough with praising Damon…

As you can probably tell from the trailers, the CGI in The Martian is nearly perfect. Space looked frighteningly real, as did everything else requiring special effects. The only time I noticed the use of CGI was in the opening sequence, when we see Watney’s team of astronauts walking around Mars in their full space getup. Their heads looked almost photoshopped onto the screen, and it really took me out of the moment. Other than that small problem, the CGI was perfect.

They perfected the mix between scenes on Earth and Mars. Despite the fact that this is The Martian and is about….a Martian, only about 60-70% of the film actually takes place on Mars. That said, it worked great. I’ll be honest here, I think I enjoyed the scenes on Earth a little too much. These scenes were essentially just focused on NASA and their plan to bring the Martian home, but something about them were just a joy to watch. Donald Glover and Chiwetel Ejiofor gave the best performances from the people on Earth, with no one else trailing too far behind them. 

We see about 10-15 minutes of Watney’s crew on their trip home, and these scenes are great too. After seeing Ant Man, I’m becoming more and more of a Michael Pena fan, and he didn’t let me down. Kate Mara, with her limited scenes, also did a great job. 

Overall, The Martian is a cinematic thrill ride, filled with plenty moments of laughter, suspense and fear. I urge you to check this one out on the big screen, as this is where it is truly meant to be seen.