The Man on the Mars

The Martian — Movie Review

Matt Damon portrays a man stranded and alone on Mars. Originally part of a small crew, he was left behind during their evacuation in an unpredictable storm. We first learn of his survival after his abrupt awakening from an oxygen alert in his helmet, and a metal pipe in his abdomen. Luckily our hero specializes in botany, and attempts to create a way to sustain himself. The journey he takes to survive is one that displays human ingenuity and the will to survive.

Unlike many other stranded alone films, we are free from the bonds of the typical island setting. Our protagonist isn’t some average Joe either; however, it still highly comparable to other films of this type. The typical man on an island with wildlife or plant life, but no idea how to survive is similar in the challenge level of an astronaut botanist on a desolate planet. Down to it’s core the film draws the same emotion of triumph and survival from the audience, which ties it strongly to the survival film genre. We get an atypical perspective on the will and intellectual strength of the singular human in this film, because part of which is the entirety of the human race attempting to ensure the survival of this man.

The purpose of these types of films is to not only see struggle, but to feel proud of the assumption that you could survive in their shoes. Instead of the protagonist being a more relatable person, he is one of the most intelligent humans. Any audience going away from most of these types of these films may think “well that could be me”, but with this it is much more of a stretch. Many people may think that in another life, or with the right schooling that this in fact could have been them as well. Throughout the film there are moments of the protagonist doing things to create relatability such as the regular swearing or phrases like “I’m going to have to science the shit out of this”. Having such a character allows for the projection of oneself onto the scientific genius. This instills pride within the human race’s capabilities to an even larger extent.

Surviving alone, without the help of others and all the comforts of society is not a new concept. The birth of many types of literature encompassing this idea can be drawn back to Robinson Crusoe written by Daniel Defoe in 1719. The purpose of which was to make the western culture feel more pride and superiority, which today is seen blatantly as racial superiority propaganda. Since the creation of this book there has been many adaptations of this idea, such as in Castaway, or the literal Robinson Crusoe on Mars, as well as the antithesis of this idea in Lord of the Flies. Fortunately in this film we see the incorporation of all that humanity has to offer in this one man’s survival. The original creation of The Martian was a book itself written as a novel, which connects it to the original book that was the real introduction to “the novel” as a significant type of literature. This idea is in no way a new one, but we see in this film the full use of modern cinematography and technology to create a stunning film.

The Middle Easter desert of Wadi Rum in Jordan serves as the template in which the cinematography done by Dariusz Wolski takes place in this film. The foreground is almost completely natural because of the rocky desert similarities of Mars itself. We are given a large scope in this planet and a far reaching horizon, which is made realistic with the use of “atmospheric perspective” or the decreasing of contrast in the background in reference to distance from the camera. Using this type of coloring is common in many art forms; however, in film it allows for a more realistic cinematic look. These vast expansions are visually appealing and makes anyone feel like this was really shot on Mars. There is also mostly natural lighting with some color correction to create the red Mars, which is also very visually appealing. The film also includes many camera perspectives including the go pros on the actors, which makes for very effective visuals and relatability.

Being able to see from the perspective of our protagonist and the other astronauts more easily puts you in their shoes. There are very integral moments in the film that can only truly portray the suspense from the character’s perspective using the go-pros. It almost creates a found footage feeling in some moments, because of both the logs and live feed of the helmets. Both of those items are logically in place, and serve as what might be the perspective looking back on this as a historical event. This type of portrayal allows for the innermost thoughts to be vocally discussed without having another character present, because for the most part dialogue advances plot.

Space exploration is the real final frontier which is one of the driving ideas in the Sci-Fi genre. This film expresses not only the danger, but the immense capabilities that we may achieve one day in such a setting. Humanity has always been drawn to understanding itself and the world around it, and since most of our world is now known we look to the stars for answers. Creating this film in such an environment of danger and wonder adds to the suspense and curiosity throughout. Surviving in such an environment however, is a very complex and curious endeavor. The scientific accuracy was made clear as an intention of the creators of the film.

Having re-watched this movie multiple times you can assume I very much enjoyed it. The balance between comedy and tragedy is done well. There are no dull moments within this film, while maintaining realism and believable solutions. Even those who are not fans of the sci-fi genre would enjoy this film, because it is such a compelling realistic story. Even after watching it multiple times I still feel the struggle and triumph as much as I did watching it for the first time. This film is a display of both excellent storytelling, and excellently created immersive visuals. No time is wasted watching such a fantastic creation that is The Martian.