Scott Ridley’s The Martian stars Matt Damon as an astronaut working for NASA who becomes stranded on Mars and has to learn to survive. Based on the novel “The Martian” by Andy Weir and adapted into a screenplay by Drew Goddard, the movie explores the struggle of survival of Mark Watney, the American astronaut who was incorrectly pronounced dead by his crewmembers when a nasty storm hit Mars.
Watney was knocked out after he was speared with a metal rod during the epic storm. After realizing he was isolated, Watney performs self-surgery on the wound in the first scene, a bold and remarkable portrayal maintained by Matt Damon throughout the movie.
Scott assembles a well-known cast with Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids), Jeff Daniels (Dumb & Dumber) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), who all play characters who work for NASA and contribute their smart, yet serious, dispositions in order to bring Watney back from Mars. The movie consists of two parallel narratives, the first being NASA’s scramble to fix the disaster, and the second being Watney’s search for resources to sustain himself. The two narratives eventually intercept when Watney establishes communication with the NASA station.
What could have been a quiet movie focused on a single consciousness is filled with Watney’s lighthearted humor and pleasantness as he frequently video logs his days, which Damon skillfully portrays in a performance that shows off his range. His wide-ranging intelligence is shown when he uses his knowledge of botany to grow a potato crop and expand his limited food source. The audience sees how Watney remains playful during his unprecedented time on Mars, as he complains about being forced to only listen to 70s disco, the leftover belonging of his commander, played by Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty).
After many mishaps, including a botched shuttle launch meant to send Watney shipments of food, the Ares III crew, to which Watney belonged before they mistakenly left him on Mars, turns their spacecraft around after heading home to Earth and rescues Watney. The movie ends abruptly, ensuring that Mark Watney has made it home safely and gone on to instruct beginner astronaut candidates at NASA.
Watney’s solitude is frequently interrupted by the scenes featuring the happenings of Earth, the result of Scott’s contrast of narratives to demonstrate that when one is alone and isolated, he really isn’t alone at all. Even at Watney’s most isolated moments, his actions are still being watched and accounted for from 50 million miles away. The Martian is a movie that takes you into the vastness of both outer space and the human mind to then focus on the ideal that humans can never truly be alone and isolated as long as society exists.