Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Film Review: "The Martian" (2015).

"Every human being has a basic instinct: to help each other out. If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it's found in every culture without exception."
This quote is the soul of The Martian. This science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott and written by Drew Goddard. Based on Andy Weir's 2011 novel of the same name. During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring "the Martian" home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible, rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney's safe return.

Andy Weir, the son of a particle physicist, has a background in computer science. He began writing the book in 2009, researching related material so that it would be as realistic as possible and based on existing technology. Weir studied orbital mechanics, astronomy, and the history of manned spaceflight. Having been rebuffed by literary agents when trying to get prior books published, Weir decided to put the book online in serial format one chapter at a time for free at his website. At the request of fans, he made an Amazon Kindle version available for 99 cents. The Kindle edition rose to the top of Amazon's list of best-selling science-fiction titles, where it sold 35,000 copies in three months, more than had been previously downloaded free. This garnered the attention of publishers: Podium Publishing, an audiobook publisher, signed for the audiobook rights in January 2013. Weir sold the print rights to Crown in March 2013 for over US$100,000. The book debuted on the New York Times Best Seller list on March 2, 2014 in the hardcover fiction category at twelfth position and went on to become a bestseller.

20th Century Fox optioned the novel in March 2013, and producer Simon Kinberg was attached to develop the novel into a film. In the following May, Goddard entered negotiations with the studio to write and direct the film. Goddard wrote a screenplay for the film, and Matt Damon expressed interest in starring under Goddard's direction. Goddard then pursued an opportunity to direct Sinister Six, a comic book film about a team of super villains. Kinberg then brought the book to Ridley Scott's attention. In May 2014, Scott entered negotiations with the studio to direct the film with Damon cast as the film's stranded astronaut. Following Scott's commitment, the project picked up the pace and was quickly approved. Filming began in November 2014 and lasted approximately 70 days. The film first shot at Korda Studios (in Hungarian: Korda Filmstúdió) 26 km west of Budapest, Hungary, one of the largest in the world. About 20 sets were constructed, which isn't many in comparison to other films, but they were much more "technical". To put that in perspective to other Ridley Scott films, he used 70 on Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014) and over 100 on American Gangster (2007). The practical backdrop for Mars was filmed in Wadi Rum, which is a UNESCO world heritage site located in Jordan. Wadi Rum had been used as a location for other films set on Mars, including Mission to Mars (2000), Red Planet (2000), and The Last Days on Mars (2013)Weir, who developed a relationship with NASA after publishing the novel, involved the space program in working with Scott to accurately depict the film's science and technology. NASA was consulted in order to get aspects of space and space travel, specifically in relation to Mars, with the most accuracy. NASA is federally funded, yet charges no one, including private for-profit organizations, any fees for use of and access to its archives and consultancy. The mission to Mars in the film emulates actual missions that NASA is planning for the future.

The film stars Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. The performances in the film were out-of-this-world and astounding. The film features an ensemble that each gave their own unique flavours into the mix. Damon's unflappable performance, in particular, is perhaps the film's biggest asset. Despite the brilliant cast, unfortunately though I felt that the secondary characters were underdeveloped and underused, and missed out during the critical moments in the film.

Sharp, funny and thrilling, The Martian packs just the right amount. Terrific stuff, a thrilling sic-fi survival story indeed. It is a fun, tense sci-fi thriller that's masterfully directed and visually stunning. Scott laces the technical details and the humour from the book enough to satisfy hard science lovers and science fiction fans alike. It's a huge and technically dazzling film and that the film's panoramas of an astronaut journey across the vast landscapes of mars and space station exteriors are at once informative and lovely. It is the best pure sci-fi film since Gravity (2013). The film restores a sense of wonder, terror and possibility to the big screen that should inspire awe among critics and audiences worldwide. A geeky yet impressive comeback for Scott. The 3-D effects, added in post-production, provide their own extraterrestrial startle: a hailstorm of debris hurtles at you, as do a space traveler's thoughts at the realization of being truly alone in the universe. However, the film stumbles with its pacing and secondary characters. In the end, the film will leave you as breathless as if you'd been dropped on the Martian surface without a suit. It's more than a movie. It's some kind of miracle.

Simon says The Martian receives:

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