The Martian has been said to be Ridley Scott’s return to form after a series of disappointing films. Although, I can’t truly agree nor disagree with that statement considering I never actually did watch any of such films. But what I can say though is that while ‘The Martian’ is an extremely competent and entertaining film, it is also disappointing.
For all the awards and top ten lists the film had made on, it simply lacks some of the qualities that makes a film truly great.
The film promises a story of a man’s isolation in mars, his loneliness and struggle when he is the only one alone on a desolated planet that does not foster the survival of human beings. But, the film instead attempts to deliver a suspense narrative of whether Mark Watney (Matt Damon) would return back to earth despite all the odds.
The film often cuts back and forth between Watney’s predicament and the members of NASA back on Earth as they try to deal with the situation. While such a decision gives us the full story, Watney’s own personal struggle is compromised.
The film lacks tension, I have always felt that Watney was going to return to earth regardless of the obstacles that face him. By showing the behind the scenes of the people trying to find and save him, Watney’s problems are undermined. The film places too much emphasis on the other side of things and we feel that because of it’s importance in the narrative it is no doubt that the NASA team was going to succeed and rescue Mark Watney.
With the survival aspect of the film greatly diminished, the film’s ‘inspirational’ moments just seem forced and superficial.
Often does Mark Watney talk to the camera. Explaining about what he is to do and why he is trying to do it. While it is a very clever way to deliver expositions, it cannot avoid the fact that it is just exposition. Watney explains his plan in detail as if he was an instructional guide on how to survive on Mars, he explains his current predicament to the cameras perhaps to try to avoid thinking about the fact that there is no one else on the planet other than him. When the going does get tough, he keeps it quiet and focuses solely on trying to keep warm, not suffocate. To survive.
Such scenes though, are few and hard to come by. Most of the time, the film relies on voice – overs and exposition from Watney or other characters to explain how tough his situation is which also undermines the struggle of Watney.
I suppose it may be that The Martian doesn’t need to be ‘deep’ or inspirational. Judging by the film’s plot and overall tone, it is very clear that it is and wants to be a Hollywood, popcorn movie. The film isn’t seeking to challenge the viewer or lead them through an emotional journey unlike no other. It is merely seeking to entertain.
But if that is all it seeks to do then it has succeeded. The Martian was a very entertaining watch. With a competent story, interesting characters and competent if not sub – par direction from Ridley Scott himself.
I was merely lamenting on how the film could’ve been much more if there were some more liberties taken with the direction and overall approach to the film.
The Martian is a very entertaining Hollywood Movie with some great performances by Matt Damon, but that is all it is really,’entertaining’.
If you’re to watch a movie with a couple of friends at a friday night just for entertainment, The Martian is one that I would recommend.
But for a film that challenges and inspires, All is Lost, directed by J.C. Chandor would be a better choice.