Certificate 12A, 141 minutes
Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig
The Martian starts on Sol 18 - a Sol is Martian day, which is about 40 minutes longer than a Terrestrial one - of the planned 31 Sols long Ares 3 manned NASA expedition to Mars, located at Acidalia Planitia. This isn't the first one, nor is it the last planned. The crew of six of Ares 3 - the commander, Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain, Crimson Peak, Mama), Rick Martinez (Michael Peña, Ant-Man, End of Watch, Fury), Beth Johanssen (Kate Mara, Fantastic Four), Chris Beck (Sebastian Stan, Captain America: Civil War), Alex Vogel (Aksel Hennie, Hercules) and Mark Watney (Matt Damon) are performing various scientific, and otherwise, tasks when an oncoming storm is upgraded to being a more serious threat.
Watney, however, is not dead. The debris that struck him destroyed his suit's biomonitor, which is why he appeared to be dead, as no biosigns were being shown.. He has no way of telling anyone that he's still alive either, as the debris that struck him was actually the Hab's communication dish, and without that, his communications systems won't work. It can't be repaired either. He has more problems, too: Ares 4 will be coming in four years, so he has to survive that long in a Hab that was only supposed to be used for 31 Sols. With regards to food, he's slightly better off, as enough was provided to feed 6 people for twice the length of the mission, and feeding only one, they will last longer.
This still means that he will starve three years before help appears, so he has to grow his own food, on a sterile planet, and with very limited resources - if he doesn't have it, he can't get it. The mission supplies came with a number of potatoes - the potato is an excellent food source - so Watney can grow his own, if he can create fertile soil and water for the plants. There is one good source of biological material for the Martian soil he is making - the vacuum-packed waste from the crew members. Watney also has to try and find some means of communicating with NASA. Finally, he has to find a way to get to the Ares 4 site, which is around 2,000 miles away.
Back on Earth, a nice funeral is held for Mark at Arlington National Cemetery. Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Triple 9), the director of Mars missions, wants to get the Martian satellites tasked to take a look at the Acidalia Planitia site, but Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels, Looper, The Divergent Series: Allegiant) the Director of NASA, is against it. His reasoning is because that would broadcast pictures of Watney's body to the world, creating a public relations problem. Kapoor suggests a possible solution; therefore, on Sol 54, satellite communications specialist Mindy Park (Mackenzie Davis) takes a look at the site. At this point, NASA discover that Watney is not quite as dead as they thought, so plans are made to try and keep Watney alive until Ares 4 arrives.
The Martian is based on the excellent book of the same name by Andy Weir, his first published novel which was originally self-published before being released commercially, so how well was the transition to the big screen done? There are, of course, differences. Even with the length of the film, parts have been cut out - there is simply no way of converting the entirety of a standard novel into a single film; consequently, some events have been compressed in screen time and others have simply been removed. The most notable of the latter is several major problems encountered by Watney. There are still plenty of problems for him to deal with though.
There are other differences too. Some of these are necessary; for example, in the novel, most of what Watney "says" is actually, from the looks of it in the book, typed into a computer. With some exceptions - and this isn't one of them - films don't work that well where the lead character isn't really saying anything; therefore, Watney speaks a lot more, even if much of this is video diary entries or through film taken from various cameras in the Hab, the Rover and on his suit. Other changes have probably been done to make it easier to film, such as alterations to the Mars Rover and to the Hab. There are some changes that have been done whose reasoning is far less clear - such as why the second Mars Rover was destroyed, as that played a significant role in the novel. Overall, though, this is one of the better conversions.
The film is available in both 2D and 3D. The 3D overall made little difference, with it mostly being noticeable in distance scenes, such as those shot in space, especially over Mars, and those set on the planet where the Mars Rover is viewed from a high angle. The Martian scenery is lovely to behold, albeit very heavy on the red, and it would appear that they have used quite a lot of genuine footage of Mars to shoot parts of the film.
For the films soundtrack, disco features rather heavily. There is a reason for this; Lewis is a fan of disco, and Watney gets her entire digital collection after he is stranded. She is also a fan of 70s television. Much of what Mark watches and listens to therefore dates back to the Seventies.
Most of the film is set on Mars, with the rest being on Earth and the Hermes. The Earth scenes relates to various people at NASA - who don't always agree with the way to proceed, most notably Mitch Henderson (Sean Bean), who objects to the Ares 3 crew not being notified that Watney is still alive - as they try and rush to create a method of keeping Watney alive and supplied until he can be rescued. The rest of the Ares 3 crew on the Hermes start to play a more major role once they are finally told that Watney didn't die.
The major role is, of course, Matt Damon's portrayal of Mark Watney. He is all alone on a planet, so he doesn't really share screen time with anyone else. One characteristic of the novel was the element of humour. The film is probably slightly darker, but it isn't truly dark and it's difficult keeping a light tone when potentially terminal peril is also being conveyed. The film, like the book, does manage this though, and Damon does Watney's role well. Scientifically, it's mostly accurate, as have been several other recent films set in space. Some errors have been made, but overall it has a high level of accuracy, due to extensive research made by the original author which was adapted for the film. The biggest errors were made related to information about Mars that was not discovered until after the novel was written.
The Martian is rather like a fictional slightly futuristic version of the film Apollo 13 - slightly, because the technology is all possible and largely adapted from existing - with attempts being made to survive using limited resources and get home safely. Peril, with an element of humour. Overall, The Martian is another excellent, enjoyable and, moreover, plausible and accurate, science fiction film to add to the recent ones.