The Martian is the Ridley Scott directed film adaptation of the novel by Andy Weir. It stars Matt Damon as Mark Watney, an astronaut accidentally left on Mars by his crew and who has to survive until help gets there. By "there", I mean around 140,000,000 miles away.
I'm not the biggest Ridley Scott follower. Alien is brilliant and one of the best horror movies I've seen, but I'm really only familiar with his post-2010 films, which haven't really gone well with critics. However, I myself do enjoy them, as I do kind of like Prometheus and find The Counselor great. The Martian is no exception to this trend, because not only is it his best directorial effort post-2010 but it also sets itself as a nice counterpoint to Alien, one of the best science-fiction movies.
One of the biggest surprises of The Martian, at least to me, was that it wasn't a survival/thriller as the marketing made it out to be. It's more of a science-fiction/adventure movie than anything, and that's the aspect of this film that brings me the most joy. It's not a story of man struggling to survive on a desolate planet, it's actually a story of a scientist finding hope and new ways to solve problems in order to get back home. And in an age of the hardcore, distressing survival/thriller, it's rather nice to have a film that embraces intelligence, optimism, and exploration so wholeheartedly. In some ways, it's Scott's love letter to Math, Science, and uncharted territories - which pretty much makes it the opposite of Alien. Hopefully, the two prove to be an interesting duology some day.
Scott tackles the dunes of Mars in this film and does a great job directing. He manages to keep most of the film afloat with just Matt Damon, who's a natural. Visually, the film is impressive as well. The locations are really beautiful, the color pallet of the film is visually interesting, and the cinematography is amazing. Thankfully, Scott doesn't get lost in the scope of the film's visuals as it's still very much character driven, something Prometheus (even though I enjoyed) would've benefited from being.
Damon reaffirms his movie star status, while the rest of the substantial ensemble cast turn in good performances. Drew Goddard's screenplay shines the most, as it's equal parts intelligent and witty. The relationships between all the characters is well defined and the cast's chemistry is outstanding. The film is way funnier than anticipated as well, going back to my previous point about the film embracing optimism wholeheartedly.
Truthfully, the only downside was that the pacing of the film was off. It feels like the filmmakers did their best with what they had, but what they had was a story that ranged across several months on two separate planets with a main cast of about thirteen people, so the origin of the shortcoming is quite clear.
In The Martian, Ridley Scott boldly embraces the love for Math, Science, and the adventurous spirit, and makes one of the most spirited and intelligent outer space movies of the past few years.