Ridley Scott returns to sci-fi action with an adaptation of Andy Weir’s best-selling novel The Martian. Written by The Cabin in the Woods’ Drew Goddard (who was previously attached to direct), this Mars-based rescue mission epic stars Matt Damon as unfortunate astronaut Mark Watney, along with fellow Interstellar co-star Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Kristen Wiig.
Damon’s Watney has to “science the shit” out of Mars in order to stay alive following a freak storm which leaves him for dead. On his lonesome but armed with an incredibly handy degree in botany, he sets to turning the seemingly infertile ground of Mars into a fully functional potato farm.
After announcing Watney’s untimely demise to the world, NASA – led by Jeff Daniel’s diplomatic big wig, Teddy Sanders, with the help of fellow suit Vincent Kapoor (Ejiofor) and PR guru Annie Montrose (Wiig) – are left scratching their collective heads as to how the heck they’re going to get their stranded employee home after uncovering images which prove he’s still very much alive and kicking.
With the small matter of 50 million miles between them – and his former, grief-stricken crew, led by Commander Lewis (Chastain), out of the loop regarding the botany king’s new lease of life – it’s going to take a hell of a lot of con-fuddling scientific awesomeness to get their boy home.
A charismatic turn from the seemingly doomed Damon, space banter and a nifty 70’s disco soundtrack (“Lookin’ for some hot stuff baby this evenin’!”) rocket this science-heavy spectacle into a hugely entertaining survival thriller.
Arriving in the wake of 2013’s awe-inspiring Gravity and last year’s Christopher Nolan directed epic Interstellar, Scott’s latest science fiction outing – shot in the beautifully well-chosen surroundings of the Jordanian deserts – goes pound-for-pound with those pristine looking space adventures.
Amongst its shiny space suits and red, sandy horizons, this Mars-based extravaganza not only looks the absolute part, it manages to – amongst the serious space-age jibber-jabber and hi-tech farming – balance the dramatics (led by Daniels’ expertly crafted serious face) of this unlikely rescue mission with a heavy sprinkling of oh-crap-I’m-stuck-on-Mars-induced wit.
If not for Sean Bean’s increasingly annoying chuckle-heavy performance as the always question raising mission leader, Mitch Henderson, this would have been a cheese-free ride, yet the Watney-led banter – finished off with a surprisingly tear-inducing Iron Man-inspired finale – makes this a highly effective, humanised outing.
It may well be the best film ever made about farming in space, it may also be Scott’s finest hour (well, two and a bit…) for sometime, but The Martian’s also the funniest and most characterful space flick to hit our screens this side of the millennium.