(Check out the list so far)
The Movie: The Martian (2015)
One Sentence Plot Summary: Mark Watney sciences his way out of multiple problems as earth hems and haws because of bureaucracy.
Why It’s on the List: If you think about it, we get so few Matt Damon as purely charismatic lead movies. Even Jason Bourne, his most well known action franchise, is kind of a grumpy, insular character. In this movie, Matt Damon does not really have anyone to act off. It’s a shame because the crew consists of a hell of a cast that a great movie also could have been made out of. You’ve got Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, and Sebastain Stan. That doesn’t even include Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristin Wiig, Benedict Wong, Mackenzie Davis, and DONALD GLOVER IN A GLORIFIED CAMEO. Damon excels as Mark Watney. He’s charismatic as hell and engages with the audience throughout the whole movie. His performance makes the audience root for and want to see Watney survive.
If that cast isn’t enticing enough, this is also a movie based off an incredible book by Andy Weir, a book that should have been almost unfilmable given the technical nature of what he had to explain. This is about a man who is left on Mars by accident because his crew thinks he was killed by a storm. Ridley Scott, who was already an iconic director but one who has made some questionable decisions in recent years, finally got a script, thanks to Drew Goddard, to sink his teeth into and a hell of a cast. Scott is someone who need a good script. Otherwise he can make some real trash.
I’m not sure this movie is catching anyone at their peak, but this is an epic and intelligent piece of science storytelling. I don’t even know how much of the science is BS because everything feels real. It’s clear not all of this is possible, but I think the key to any world feeling real is the authenticity of the dialogue, the visualization, and having a great cast to bring it altogether. This movie has all of that in spades.
What I love most about The Martian is the fact that things get ugly at times. Watney is far from perfect as he bumbles his way living on Mars, but he constantly figures out solutions to his problems. Even the people on the earth do the same thing. Jeff Daniels plays Guy in Suit Who Says Important Things as he has a number of times in the last decade. Somehow, the movie manages to be entertaining amidst a lot of science conversation and a whole lot happening across three major areas. Although the movie is known for Damon speaking into the camera, a lot happens on earth and with the crew. I almost wish we could have gotten more of them, but it’s ultimately not their story.
The Martian manages to be smart science and thoroughly entertaining despite being nearly two and a half hours long. This might not be what Ridley Scott is most known for, but it is my favorite of his films.
*There’s a good amount of rah rah diplomacy that in no ways feels realistic.
MVP: I feel like this is a really hard one. Movies are inherently a collaborative effort, and never is that better represented than here. There is the original source material of Andy Weir, a great screenplay by Drew Goddard, the master visual storytelling of Ridley Scott, and Matt Damon’s incredible solo effort. Ultimately, I give the credit to Goddard for distilling Weir’s novel and making it into something we could enjoy as a movie. I think Goddard is someone who hasn’t always gotten the credit as a writer of so many genre based television projects and movies, and this might somehow be his best work.
Best Performance: Matt Damon. Duh.
Best Quote: (I’m going to need more than one this time because there are some great ones by Matty Damon.)
“In the face of overwhelming odds, I’m left with only one option, I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this.” – Mark Watney
“I don’t want to come off as arrogant here, but I’m the greatest botanist on this planet.” – Mark Watney
“They say once you grow crops somewhere, you have officially colonized it. So, technically, I colonized Mars. In your face, Neil Armstrong!” – Mark Watney
Is there a sequel? Nope.