Ridley Scott’s enshrinement as a household name in the film industry is warranted on many levels, but lately, the British phenom seems to have lost his touch with The Counselor and Exodus: Gods and Kings. Need I say more?
Unlike Shyamalan, however, Scott has an established resume with many hits of both box office success and critical acclaim, such as Alien, Blade Runner and Gladiator. With Shyamalan, we all want him to retreat under the bed like the boogeyman and never show his face again. With Scott, we’re hoping he can rekindle the creative ember that got his career turning in the first place.
The Martian may be that fire. Adapted from the 2011 novel by Andy Weir of the same name, this 2015 exploration of Mars’ terrain is but another entry into the ever-growing Hollywood interest in space exploration, following 2013’s Gravity and 2014’s Interstellar. I, for one, am perfectly fine with this new trend. Something that is literally unquantifiable allows for the expansion of the imagination and in a decade where sequels and adaptations continue to overload the nation’s theaters, The Martian is heading in a new direction. The Martian really is alone in the spotlight like its main star, Mark Watney. Gravity and Interstellar may have found the field of play before it but in a field this wide, that being a field of extraterrestrial proportions, The Martian really is its own entity, searching its own themes of self-exploration, survival and ethics in a way that neither Gravity nor Interstellar ever focused their gaze. Both Gravity and Interstellar highlighted visual gravitas and while Scott, a visual extraordinaire himself, isn’t one to hold back on delighting the eye, The Martian‘s golden goose is its screenplay and cast without question. Scott’s manipulations astound and dazzle, illustrating wide landscape portraits and unearthly aesthetics but there’s little question what The Martian is truly focusing on here and that’s a great sign for Scott’s future endeavors. He knew what he wanted here and he went out and took it.
A stellar cast of Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Sean Bean and Chiwetel Ejiofor is great both on paper and on screen in this vacation on Mars, but the true applause of this film belongs to the weathered character of Mark Watney, portrayed so effortlessly by Jason Bourne…I mean, Matt Damon. Overzealous and clearly devoted to his survival and yet surprisingly flippant, Damon’s Watney expounds a character who refuses to give up and at the same time, feels obligated to make sarcastic remarks at his obvious misfortune.
What Gravity failed to do, at least in my viewing of Curron’s work, was establish a self-sustaining character. Damon’s Watney, on the other hand, is easily personable with his cynicism and blunt humor, attributes that younger audiences especially can relate to. He holds a confidence in dire circumstances that is sure to rake audiences in droves and his unabashed approach in everything he undertakes leads to some amusing set pieces.
My only complaint with The Martian is that it’s so lighthearted. The deep drama we’re used to seeing from Scott isn’t here and partially due to the comedic character that Watney symbolizes, we never get to the deeper and darker areas of living by yourself on a deserted planet.
Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.
80-89 It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cable Guy, The Cabin in the Woods, Tears of the Sun, Edge of Tomorrow, The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
40-49 This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (The Lost Boys, Zombeavers, Crank, Erased, I, Frankenstein)
30-39 Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Centurion, Planet of the Apes, Stonados, Redemption, Pride and Prejudice)
20-29 What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The Visit, The Fantastic Four, The Boy Next Door, The Colony, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale)
0-19 Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie Stoner, The Forbidden Dimensions, Cyborg, Outcast, Sabotage)
My score for The Martian: 78.
The Martian grabbed $55 million at the box office in its opening week, meaning it may overtake Gravity for the largest opening weekend in October and should still be considered a success. Scott looks to be on the right track once again, which can only lead fans of the theater excited for his upcoming projects.