While evacuating a Mars research post due to a storm, astronaut Mark Watney is by debris, getting knocked unconscious and having his lifeline severed. The crew, believing him dead or close to it, reluctantly leaves him behind as they blast off Mars and prepare to return to Earth. But—Watney is still alive. He awakens after the storm has subsided and makes his way back to the outpost, refusing to give up and determined to live off of the limited available resources.
Numerous complications arise, and Watney must solve each one if he hopes to one-day return home. This is definitely one of the movies greatest strengths, as each solution is rooted in real science. The only thing that is not possible is the storm that got him into the mess: such powerful gales do not occur on Mars.
Based on a book which grew out of engineer Andy Weir’s pet project to see if a human could possibly survive on Mars, the movie captures the energy and passion of the novel. The basic premise of the movie is reminiscent of THE REVENANT, but tonally they could not be more different. While Leo’s latest romp is deadly serious, many jokes pepper scenes and prevent THE MARTIAN from ever getting too heavy. On the other hand, this also prevents the movie from ever becoming incredibly gripping, as this light-heartedness makes the ending obvious from the beginning.
But, despite its 141 minute run time, THE MARTIAN never drags, thanks to the screenplay and an amazing performance by Matt Damon as Mark Watney. His acting has made me looks at potatoes in a whole new light.
Overall, THE MARTIAN is difficult to hate. But it is also difficult to truly love. At heart, it is a fun movie, but truly breathtaking scenes and far and few and its seven Oscar nominations—including for best picture and best actor for Damon—is a bit much. I would recommend the movie to anyone with even the tiniest bit of interest in it but would also be surprised if it still receives numerous mentions outside of its scientific accuracy a few years down the line.