Review: The Martian (Matt Damon). Nov. 2015


Went and saw The Martian, yesterday, the movie adaptation of Andy Weir’s book which I read a few months back, see here. It stars Matt Damon in almost the exact same scenario he played in Interstellar where an astronaut is marooned on Mars. Maybe that’s why he was cast in this. They seem like exactly the same character to me. Jeff Daniels plays the humourless head of NASA and there is the ubiquitous female space ship commander (Jessica Chastain) who has a guilt complex as large as Rex’s in Toystory, for “leaving our boy” out there. Sean Bean plays the Crew Liaison guy in an undercooked role to Daniels’ NASA corporate hard-arse.

There have now been three movies of this ilk, where a manly hero is marooned on Mars and gets captured by the female commander in almost the exact same way (him coming up fast from the planet in an obsolete, usually Russian, retro capsule fuelled by poos, or lime juice, or a torch battery) to be captured by the orbiting female boss in orbit riding a booster jet thingy on a rope (Red Planet; Mission to Mars; The Martian). Vestiges of sperms swimming towards embracing eggs, but in space. There’s lots of round pods with long swimming tails. The right stuff. “Gotcha!” Tears, cheers, humanity roars.

Recycled space-pod spermy scenarios:

  • Carrie-Anne Moss hauls in Val Kilmer (Red Planet, 2000)
  • Connie Nielsen tries to haul in Tim Robbins (Mission to Mars 2000)
  • Jessica Chastain hauls in Matt Damon (The Martian 2015).


A big brick bat in that the movie moved away from the book’s cool way that Watney gets in touch with NASA. But bouquet for the non-book scene where he cuts his suit and uses the escaping oxygen as a jet, controlled by his fist, to jet himself the last 100m to his adoring guilty ex-commander, or spin-off in to eternity as a floating corpse in a space suit. Adam meets Eve in space surrounded by technology. Why didn’t Tim Robbins do that, instead of just die? Sucky. Bit edgy on the science though, would’t Damon just implode in the vacuum of space? Calling all space Geeks.

Kinda hokey but good entertainment, although the scenes of hopeful people in Times Square, Tiananmen Square, Trafalgar Square was a bit naff. Most people would watch this today on Social Media. Hell-o. This is not 1945 and the end of WWII.

The Mars scenery is fantastic, and I like Damon, who is doubled by a very thin actor (with towel over hard as Damon exits shower, etc) as he slowly starves on Mars.


The book was great – “I’m gonna have to science the sh*t outta this.” But the movie is just another American “reaching goals” and “solving one problem after another.” And like Interstellar, the elephant in the room is no one goes crazy being completely alone, harassed by life threatening stress all day every day, for years on end living inside a fishbowl. And eating only spuds. Just a bit of a beard after 4 years on Mars. Ho-hum. What about a sub plot on depression, or suicide? Wrestling with self and loneliness, some imaginary friends, like in A Beautiful Mind. Now that would redefine “aliens.”

If you add Gravity 2013 (Clooney and Bullock) this is the fifth recent movie of this genre, which is now getting quite worn. Several gazillion to rescue one man on Mars, meanwhile on earth, millions starve. But it’s held up like so much of Hollywood, as humanity orgasms with technology while saving the planet, progressing the fictional evolution of mankind, and air punching for humanity. Meanwhile back on earth… ISIS, Syria, Iraq, drugs, school shootings, etc.

The book is better, with all the detail of what Mark Watney does and how he survives, which is kinda glossed over a bit in the movie, especially his extended trial journeys out from the HAB, calculating water, weights, distances, etc. In the movie, Matt Damon just drives several thousand miles in a rover and arrives early to eat nuts, while NASA formulates a plan. The book is knife-edge. His life hangs in the balance, dependent on duct tape holding a thin membrane of PaknSave plastic bags. In the movie,

All the nuts and bolts fit, cables match, torches have batteries. On earth we can’t even get standardised phone chargers, let alone standardised Russian and American moon tech junk several decades apart.

There is a cultural cringe sop thing to China and America coming together as brother scientists in love and braininess (don’t mention cyber hacking?) and this movie has all the back room back-on-earth problem solving of Apollo 13, led, you got it, by a Chinese in a baseball cap. Cos they’re good at math, right? “You got 27 days!” “We’ll do it with duct tape and paper clips in 15.” There’s the ubiquitous unorthodox pizza-eating coffee-swilling mega genius who lives in a pig style, in this movie. He’s a politically correct Black ghetto dude who is into Astrophysics. Guess he picked it up in da Hood, y’all. Mars yo-yo. The Barack Obama of Mission Control.

It was fun, and I’d recommend you go see it on the big screen. But the script failed the drama of the book and could have been much better. I’d have worked Damon (Watney) much more on the edge of life, and have cranked up the catastrophic problems of atmosphere, oxygen, explosions, starving to death. Instead, Matty boy just duct tapes everything and chews gum. Easy.

The disco jokes re the commander’s private music logs gets tired. Martian needed a bit more ‘Sigourney Weaver’ of Alien I to spice up the drama. It was too clean, too easy. “Oh dear, there’s Martian dust on my solar panels.

I’m screwed.” (Uses a powered spray gun to wash it away, instead of a cloth. In the book even his poos is vital to survival to squeeze every ounce of power out of anything).

Of the three, I’d rate The Martian third, behind Mission to Mars (2), Red Planet (1). So, that is de-evolution despite the technology ramp-up. The 2000 Kilmer film (Red Planet) is excellent and repeat-watchable. I also adore Carrie-Anne Moss in that, she’s fantastic. Mind you, I absolutely fell in love with her as Trinity in Matrix and we’ve been in a onscreen relationship ever since, so maybe I’m biased. Yes I am. She kicks-butt and is awesome in vinyl).

MacGyver in space, a bit light on the potential drama captivated in the book, but still worth a big screen watch. 6/10. Maybe a 7 for the Martian cinematography.

Here’s the trailer.

The Martian | Official HD Trailer #1 | 2015

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