Scott’s latest film is well-paced and brilliantly cast
From Gravity to Interstellar, the past few years has had its fair share of science-heavy sci-fi films about space travel and the dangers that come with it. On a surface level, Ridley Scott’s latest blockbuster, The Martian, could have been just another space movie. Thankfully, Scott took the “man gets stuck on mars” concept and made sure that it wasn’t wasted or poorly used. The concept, based on the novel of the same title by Andy Weir, is paired with a character-driven script, enticing plot, and some believably amazing science to make for an entertaining and memorable film.
Too often, films fill their cast with acclaimed actors in attempt to make up for a sub-par script or lazy plotline. The Martian did not succumb to this trend, but instead used their star-studded cast to its fullest potential. From Jessica Chastain and Chiwetel Ejiofor to Donald Glover and Kate Mara, there is no shortage of talent amongst the cast of The Martian. Despite such a large cast, the actors, even when featured briefly, were used wisely. Even characters that are only featured on screen a handful of times are well-developed and carefully written in; this also made for a more interesting story than watching Matt Damon stuck on a desert planet for several hours. Instead, seeing diverse relationships between a variety of characters makes for an interesting and dynamic plotline.
One aspect of The Martian that came as a pleasant surprise was its humour that carried throughout the film. Despite its dark themes and frightening concepts – being trapped on a distant and abandoned planet doesn’t normally lend itself to laughs – the script is interspersed with moments that lift the mood without detracting from the overall serious tone, further contributing to the excellent characterization that makes the film a success. Complementing the subtle humour is a soundtrack comprised entirely of ‘70s disco that accompanies the film’s shuttle-construction and space-travel montages. Though perhaps intentionally cheesy, the soundtrack is a perfect addition that serves to craft a unique tone and clearly identify the lighter moments in the overall dramatic and sometimes nerve-racking story.
With a running time of two hours and 15 minutes and a plot concerned with isolation and survival, the film risks losing momentum at times, but surprisingly manages to remain engaging from beginning to end. Timing and pacing can do wonders for a film, and The Martian benefits greatly from a well-paced plot that switches from time on earth to time on Mars in ways that keeps the viewer attentive and eager to know more.
Although some plot points that left me skeptical of the science behind the film, overall the story is gripping from start to finish. Thankfully Hollywood isn’t tired of hard sci-fi yet, because The Martian is a worthwhile addition to the quickly growing library of the genre.