The Martian

A very likable and enjoyable nerd/sci-fi thriller that had humour, suspense, and pathos, but despite all that something was still lacking in it to make it really superb.

Ridley Scott finally scored a real hit after the so-so Exodus: Gods and Kings, the well-acted but incoherent The Counselor and the disappointing Prometheus, and writer Drew Goddard definitely played a role in the success because the script was the strongest of the lot. It was direct, straightforward and made sense (within the scope of cinematic/artistic licence).

However, therein also laid one of the main problems. Goddard's script was essentially script-writing 101. There were no surprises and nothing unpredictable about how the story unfold. Scott himself also presented it such that you knew what was exactly going to happen next and that made any sought of tension in the film appeared overly drawn out and tedious. Character development and emotional investments were sacrificed on the altar of narrative cohesiveness and continuity. Debate.

Goddard - a alumnus of Whedonverse - peppered the screenplay with many snarky one-liners and most of them actually worked. However, a few - especially those uttered by side characters - fell flat and distracted the momentum of the story.

Speaking of which, Scott's pacing was excellent in the beginning. The action and story kicked in almost immediately which really grabbed the audience's attention from the get go. However, as the story progressed, and the predictability level got higher - and more tedious - the film began to dragged. And then we rushed to the finale.

Scott had assembled a great cast of actors and they all fitted their roles really well, even Kate Mara who managed to be less (not non-) annoying. And there was a surprising number of Marvel-related actors which really did make Goddard's running gag of Iron Man worked.

Matt Damon is a really relatable, everyday-sort-of-man. and that made his character someone the audience can really get behind with. Furthermore, he delivered the snide snarks with aplomb - which recalled back to his brilliant and often underused comedic talent (see The Informant! and the Ocean's Eleven trilogy). However, as the script had no mention of his emotional and mental state of mind, we do no get much in terms of dramatic chops.

That laid solely on the shoulders of the brilliant Jessica Chastain. Sadly there was not enough of her. But those few scenes we have, she conveyed more in her body language than the words she uttered. Just like in Interstellar she was the best actor in the whole film.

Michael Pena who had the best lines in Ant Man again had the best lines here, and his relationship with Damon were one of the highlights.

Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean and Chiwetel Ejiofor rounded out the ground crew trying to bring them back and they all played their roles to the tee.

The weakest "major" characters were the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) and Sue Storm (Kata Mara). They were there purely for narrative reasons but then out-of-the-blue, some sort of romance, that made no sense, crept in which added nothing to the supposed tension/risk of their characters.

The cinematography and music by frequent Scott collaborators Dariusz Wolski and Harry Gregson-Willaims also stood out especially the gorgeous wide-angled landscaping of the former. The latter's music slowly became overly drawn out towards the end when the action sequences themselves also felt tedious.

In the end, this was an optimistic exploration of the nature of humanity and a triumphant return to form by Ridley Scott. Definitely a better movie than Interstellar  and more easily accessible to the public than Gravity.


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