Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘The Martian’ Review: Starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain & Jeff Daniels

Movies set in space have become increasingly popular in recent years. It seems every year there is always one big space movie. In 2012 it was Prometheus; in 2013 it was Gravity; and last year it was Interstellar. This year it’s The Martian, and director Ridley Scott and our lead star Matt Damon certainly know how to tell stories set in space. All of these films pushed the boundaries of storytelling in space, with directors using more practical effects and less CGI and casting good actors who can carry the film. The Martian is a film set in space and focuses on a man in a difficult situation, but it’s also a tale of bravery, courage, determination and strength.

Set in the near future, NASA is now able to send man on missions to Mars. During one particular mission, a major storm hits Mars and astronaut and botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) gets hit by flying debris, stranding him away from his crew. Commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) has to make a decision on whether to continue to look for Mark, putting her entire crew at risk or leave the planet and continue their space mission. With the storm not letting up, Melissa makes the decision to leave, assuming that the debris has killed Mark and there is no hope in finding him amongst the storm. The shuttle takes off, and unfortunately for Mark, he is stranded alone on Mars. Mark must use his knowledge of botany, science and space to figure out how to live on Mars for four years, which is when the next Mars mission crew is set to arrive.

the martian matt damon

Matt Damon is excellent in connecting with the audience on an emotional and a comedic level. He’s just as charismatic and optimistic as he is stressed and lonesome. Screenwriter Drew Goddard (2012’s The Cabin in the Woods) adapted Andy Weir’s novel and may have spiced up the ending a bit to make it more climatic and film friendly. His writing of Mark Watney is fully fleshed out, whereas the other supporting characters seem one-dimensional.

Jessica Chastain can do no wrong and she is the best thing about The Martian next to Matt Damon, but I would’ve loved to know more about her character and her relationship with Mark. Understanding, that the main premise of this film is Mark’s struggle to not only survive on Mars, but also find a way to get home, we still need more from our supporting characters trying to help him out. Maybe there’s just not that much story there, but something was missing. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig and Sean Bean also do their best in running around NASA’s headquarters, figuring out plans to get Watney home, even though we aren’t given much else from them as characters. There’s also the rest of Mark’s crew paired with Jessica Chastain, played by Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Sebastian Stan and Aksel Hennie.


The 3D worked OK, even if the depth of the settings were not as vast as Scott’s work in Prometheus, but the special effects are glorious. The rolling red hills on Mars and the clear starry skies of outer space look exceptional. When we weren’t listening to Mark’s inner monologue or video diaries, we are basking in the delightful landscapes around him.

The Martian looks beautiful and is led by a fantastic Matt Damon with a boost from the lovely Jessica Chastain. If only the depth of its supporting characters (which is the other half of the movie) were as deep as Mark Watney’s journey to get home.

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