The Martian is the best hard sci-fi space movie in quite some time.
The science also doesn't get in the way of the very human story at play here. Every scene has something to say about humanity. Watney keeps logs of his time on Mars, which share with us his inner thoughts, while, on Earth, the dynamics at play between the various individuals are incredibly revealing. Perhaps because of the setting and the fact that it shares two of the actors, The Martian gave me flashbacks to Interstellar, which tried and failed to understand human emotion. The Martian contains more genuine insight into humanity in its first fifteen minutes than the seventeen hours it felt like Interstellar was playing. You can feel the heart of this movie pouring through, organically, from start to finish; it doesn't need an out-of-place speech about the power of love.
This feeling is likely due to The Martian's sense of humor, how its characters, while mission-focused, don't forget to have personalities, and how space is celebrated, even when the worst-case scenario happens. The Martian is very funny, in large part because of the charm of Matt Damon and some of the one-liners he's given. Even though he knows that dying on Mars is highly probable, he doesn't forget to show us a strong personality, something that can be said of every character in the film. All of his crew members, who are barely on-screen for more than half of the film, establish themselves as distinct individuals. Even the smallest of roles on Earth have enough depth to allow you to remember who everyone is and figure out what they're thinking at any given moment - even without them having to say it. The character work in The Martian, in spite of its large cast, is top-notch.
That cast, by the way, contains the likes of Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Sebastian Stan, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig, Benedict Wong, Donald Glover, Aksel Hennie, and Mackenzie Davis, in addition to Damon, Daniels, and Ejiofor. That's a lot of characters to balance, and despite some of the lesser-known actors only getting a few scenes or a handful of lines of dialogue, they're memorable. This is, however, Damon's movie, and he gets to show a range that we don't get to see very often. Damon reminds us here why he's a Hollywood A-lister, demonstrating the fear, the desperation, the loneliness, but also the slightest bit of joy that comes from his situation. His charisma keeps The Martian from ever feeling dull; even when little is happening, it is fascinating to watch Damon perform.
The Martian is the best hard sci-fi space movie in quite some time. It's better than Interstellar, it's better than Gravity, and it's even better than Moon. In fact, if one were to try to describe The Martian, it'd be "Interstellar crossed with Moon, with a little bit of Cast Away thrown in for good measure - but better than all three of those." This is a fantastic film about science and humanity, all packed neatly into a thrilling, engaging, beautiful, and surprisingly funny package. This is the reason we shouldn't give up on Ridley Scott.
Bottom Line: The Martian is a fantastic film, an easy contender for a 2015 Top 10 spot, and the best effort from Ridley Scott in a long, long time.
Recommendation: Everyone should see The Martian. It's wonderful.
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