Before you hate me, I’ve often said the same of Tom Cruise but the difference between Matt and Tom is that I think on some level Mr. Cruise knows what he’s particular good at and he delivers on it almost each and every time he’s asked. Matt – on the other hand – finds his way often into big budget films that just don’t resonate with me … but I’ll endure as THE MARTIAN is definitely something in my wheelhouse as a longtime SciFi junkie.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: (edited) “When an American astronaut is left behind during a mission to Mars, he must find a way to survive on the barren planet until a team of scientists can devise a rescue plan to bring him home!”
If you’ve seen the adverts for THE MARTIAN then rest assured you’ve really seen this picture. Without sounding unnecessarily obtuse, this is a high-tech re-visioning of ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS with more than a dollop or two culled from APOLLO 13. (Yes, I know it’s based on a novel.) And – in that respect – it’s actually done quite well, so much so that I’m not surprised at the awards notices it received. Granted, I didn’t see Damon’s performance as that particularly enlightening, but I think much of that goes back to the writing and not the actor: not a lot of depth was required so long as you bought into the circumstances.
Under Ridley Scott’s direction, THE MARTIAN is masterfully entertaining. It’s vivid. It’s tense. It’s jaw-droppingly beautiful at times. Everyone in front of and behind the camera clearly all hit their marks, though there are a few players who didn’t quite seem to be up to the level of talent required here: Kristen Wiig maintained an appearance that seemed to be stifling a laugh consistently (I have seen her in other dramas and liked her, so it isn’t the ol’ ‘comedienne’s curse,’ if that’s what you’re thinking), and Jeff Daniels seemed far too dry to be an authentic government bureaucrat (for my tastes). Still, those are easy to overlook when the packaging around them was handled so well.
And while I didn’t think the film effectively addressed everything involved in Damon’s existence on Mars (never once did it satisfactorily explain his seemingly inexhaustible supply of oxygen), I think my only real gripe with it is that I found it entirely too long. I didn’t see this one theatrically, and this “extended edition” only adds 10 minutes to the running time … but the relatively predictable result after two-and-one-half hours was a bit of a letdown to me.
Yes, you can call me cynical, if you like. You wouldn’t be the first.
THE MARTIAN: EXTENDED EDITION (2016) is produced by 20th Century Fox. DVD distribution for this release is being handled by Fox Home Video. As for the technical specs? Folks, this is a Ridley Scott film, so you can expect the highest quality sights and sounds associated to it, and it all looks and sounds wonderful. Also, the disc is chocked full of special features: two different cuts (the theatrical and the extended version), commentaries, behind-the-scenes features, a gag reel, and quite a bit more. Seriously, if you’re a fan of this film, then you probably owe it to yourself to purchase this upgrade.
RECOMMENDED. Despite some weaknesses in the narrative, THE MARTIAN is probably as close to a crowd-pleaser as one can get these days. At times it grows a bit formulaic, and director Ridley Scott continues to impress even with his masterful command of Science Fiction entries. While I wasn’t a fan of several casting choices, methinks the ensemble does end up being greater here than any individual contributor, and there’s definitely something to be said for that.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at 20th Century Fox provided me with a Blu-ray of THE MARTIAN: EXTENDED EDITION by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.