“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one.”
Sacrifice. People go about their every day lives without giving too much thought to the word. If you are without money, you might sacrifice your latte or you might give up personal time to take care of a child. What if you were asked to give your life knowing that your death would better all of mankind? Would you be willing to commit this single act of selflessness? These are some of the questions that Ridley Scott explores in the brilliant adaptation of Andy Weir’s The Martian.
Set on the ruddy surface of Mars, the crew of the Ares are working to develop an infrastructure for future NASA missions when disaster strikes, killing their botanist, Mark Watney (Matt Damon). Commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) orders her crew to evacuate, abandoning the landing site. What they don’t realize is that Watney survived. Now, with dwindling supplies, Mark must not only ensure his survival, but find a way to communicate with Earth.
Drew Goddard’s treatment of Weir’s novel is simply amazing. Scott’s visual style certainly helps to bring both the familiar and especially unfamiliar terrains to audiences, but it is the actors that truly support the movie. Damon’s spry performance of Watney, the playful rapport between Watney and Pilot Rick Martinez (Michael Pena), the wunderlust that Chwietel Eijafor gives the character of Vincent Kapoor, the diminutive approach that Sean Bean takes with Mars Mission Director Mitch Henderson, Jeff Daniels superb performance as NASA Director Teddy Sanders, they are all standout actors who bring life to the characters. The real highlight though is Donald Glover as the ‘steely-eyed missile man’ Rich Parnell. His role was small, but critical.
A healthy mixture of practical and computer generated effects by Neil Corbould of James Bond fame truly added to the scope and grandeur of the movie. Visually, no one was better suited for the job of delivering Mars than cinematographer Darius Wolski. One would never believe that the Jordanian deserts would serve as a ‘location’ for Mars. Together, they delivered Scott’s vision.
A famous tagline once intoned ‘In Space No One Can Hear You Scream.’ The immersive sound design by Michael Fentum and Oliver Tarney ensures that you can hear every sound, even in the vacuum of space. No space opera is truly complete without music, and Harry Gregson-Williams truly places you in the center of the action.
In the modern theatrical experience, you usually have to sacrifice one experience for another. For The Martian, it took two experiences; once in RealD 3D and again in 2D with Dolby Atmos sound. The 3D image was completed in post production. Ridley Scott’s style lends itself to 3D and it shines here. The Atmos mix did not really make itself known until the latter half of the second act throughout the end of the movie, and it hits you with a bang, making it the preferred experience of the two.
The Martian is not just science fiction. It is science fact. The story firmly plants Ridley Scott in the eyes of modern moviegoers, going well beyond its central thesis that each character or action is a sacrifice for something greater than the sum of the individual. We will go to Mars. Finances nor politics will stop it. The human spirit will endure.