Film: “The Martian”; Director: Ridley Scott; Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover, Benedict Wong; Rating: **1/2
Maths, science and human will-power are the three components that propel “The Martian” into motion. Directed by Ridley Scott, “The Martian”, based on Andy Weir’s novel of the same name which was released in 2011 and adapted for the screen by Drew Goddard, is a science fiction that works on two plains — as a survival and a rescue film. (Read: With The Martian in sight, NASA decodes storms on Mars)
The film begins with a team of NASA astronauts, crew of the Ares 3, on their eighteenth day of exploration. While out collecting samples from the surface of the Red Planet, Mars, they are suddenly caught in an intense dust storm. The team, along with their Commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain), is forced to evacuate their landing site in Acidalia Planitia, after being convinced that their injured colleague Mark Watney (Matt Damon), a botanist and mechanical engineer, has been killed in the sandstorm.
But it turns out that Mark, with his injuries, is still alive and stranded on Mars, trying to survive all by himself, with limited ration and with the knowledge that he would be stranded on Mars till he dies or for four years before the next mission – Ares 4 – can rescue him. Back at the NASA, they discover that Watney is alive when satellite images of the landing site show evidence of his activity. They begin working on ways to rescue him, but initially withhold the news of his survival from the rest of the Ares 3 crew, who are on their way back to Earth aboard the Hermes Spacecraft.
On the performance front, the ace cast offers nothing exceptional. Matt Damon as Mark Watney is staid and lacklustre, as he tries to grow food, make water or overcome his loneliness.
It is his occasional sarcastic one-liners during the recording of the video diaries, that lend some humour, but these are too few and far between. Jessica Chastain, as the guilt-ridden Commander, and Michael Pena as the crew of Ares 3 are prominent in the scenes on the space-craft Hermes. But, with limited screen time and no emotional baggage, their characters are flat and fail to create an impact.
For the Indian audience, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Vincent Kapoor, director of the Mars Mission, with his mixed parentage is intriguing. Kristen Wiig as Annie Montrose, the head of the media relations, makes her presence felt with one strong offhanded dialogue — making her displeasure with the director known to the team.
The screenplay lacks drama, except for Mark Watney’s self-suturing scene, which is melodramatic. The narration with a slight variation in the graph, progresses on an even keel, making the viewing experience a tad boring. There is inconsistency on the direction front and careful viewing exposes these loopholes. With excellent production values, the film is stylistically and meticulously assembled with flourishing hues of red and blue.
The three distinct settings — the planet Mars with its amazingly barren landscape, the spaceship Hermes with its crew in command of the actions around, and at times, ambiguously floating about and at the Space Mission on Earth – NASA and CNSA (China) — the film excels visually in each sphere. But overall, “The Martian” lacks the gravitas to create the impact of an exciting adventurous film.