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The Martian 3D – film review

October 24, 2015


Optimistic and playful – Ridley Scott’s best film in decades.

Reviewed on Wednesday 2Ist October 2015

the martian 2015

Directed by Ridley Scott. Screenplay by Drew Goddard, based on the novel by Andy Weir. Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sean Bean and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Running time: 144 mins.

An abandoned astronaut is forced to rely on his smarts and ingenuity in order to survive alone on the red planet.

There was a time, long ago, when Ridley Scott showed great promise as a visionary filmmaker – particularly with the release of his genre classic Alien in 1979. Sadly though, this promise quickly dissipated with a string of visually-arresting, but oddly uninvolving and decidely dull feature films; ultimately revealing his inability to tell a well-paced and engaging story – despite being a consumate technician. Aside from his last truly great work – Thelma and Louise, released in 1991, the majority of his films seem to be imbued with a certain aloofness which makes them quite difficult to connect with on that all important emotional level. Even Blade Runner, which purports to explore the concept of empathy, is honestly quite lacking in this department. The last Ridley Scott film I suffered through before deciding to pass on future movies of his was the incredibly vile and morally reprehensible Hannibal in 2001 (a film with arguably no redeeming qualities whatsoever). After this his subsequent output: Matchstick Men, Kingdom of Heaven, A Good Year, American Gangster and Robin Hood – held absolutely zero attraction for me. I was pretty much done and dusted with anything new from Ridley Scott – well, until Prometheus in 2012. And, oh dear, what a diabolical disappointment THAT was.

Essentially a ‘survival procedural’ – whereby the minutia and mechanics of survival     in an alien environment are presented with an eye towards scientific authenticity, Ridley Scott’s latest does recall Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 in this respect, although   The Martian is nowhere near as earnest or mawkish as Howard’s earlier historical recreation (or as jingoistic for that matter). Tonally, there is a playfullness and levity to The Martian which is something not normally associated with a Ridley Scott     film. And this could be attributed mainly to Drew Goddard’s screenplay and the performance of Matt Damon. On the page (and I’m referring to the screenplay here, not the book) – the character of Mark Watney could be construed as a smug, self-obsessed, ego-driven know-it-all. But on screen, Damon does well in making him an affable, roguish and ultimately endearing character we actually care about. If it was anyone else apart from Damon who was cast in the role – I doubt the character would be as likeable as he is. And Damon’s comic timing elicited genuine laughter at the screening I attended – which indicates Scott may well have just delivered his first bona fide ‘crowd-pleaser’.

It is true there are no real scenes of true peril in The Martian; there are no knife-edge and tension-filled sequences as there were in Gravity. But the generation of suspense doesn’t seem to be a priority here. And it’s no spoiler to say – we have no doubt from the outset that Watney will indeed survive (it would be a bummer of an ending if he didn’t – and this is a Hollywood movie after all). So the engaging aspect of this film     is not so much WILL he survive – but rather HOW will he survive?

Visually the first thing you’ll notice about this film is just how vibrant and colorful it     is – with Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography and the general color grading overall eschewing the drab, desaturated color palette normally associated with big-budget millennial releases. And the Martian vistas benefit enormously from the immersive quality of the 3D. As Matt Damon steps out onto the Martian surface and surveys the surrounding landscape, we really do feel like we are there. This is perhaps the most effective use of 3D since Gravity.

As he has shown with both Alien and Thelma and Louise and now The Martian,   Ridley Scott is capable of greatness when the material is strong. Adversely, when     the material is decidely sub-par (as with Prometheus) – his weaknesses as a director become glaringly apparent. So does this mean we can expect more great films from Ridley Scott? I guess this remains to be seen. He seems to be only as good as the material he chooses and it is clearly apparent now that he needs perhaps to choose more carefully. But having said that – this film is absolutely a giant leap in the right direction.

4.5 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Viewed in 3D at the Event Cinemas Megaplex Marion, Adelaide, October 21st 2015. Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.


From → film reviews

  1. Looking forward to seeing this, seems to be getting some good reviews. Good to read yours, now I know it must be alright heh 🙂

    • gregory moss permalink

      Yeah – it was quite a surprise! I usually try and steer clear of reviews of films I plan on covering, so I haven’t heard if it’s being well received or not. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on it. 🙂

  2. While I enjoyed it I don’t think its his best in decades. I prefer his darker stuff. Even something like The Counsellor seemed more interesting.

    The Martian was accomplished and mainstream, so little surprise its his most succesful at the box office for years. But for me it lacked something. Dont think its Ridleys fault really, The Martian is faithful to the book, I think it lacked tension/darkness/awe. But thats just me. I’ll elaborate when I get around to posting a review. Glad to see you enjoyed it, its clearly a good film.

    • gregory moss permalink

      Yeah – I really didn’t like The Counsellor at all. I just thought it was incredibly nasty and mean and it left a really bad taste in my mouth. But I definitely look forward to your review of The Martian! 🙂

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