Mark Watney may hate disco music with all his heart, but I think I have finally come to appreciate Commander Lewis’ love for it. I mean, it sounds perfectly groovy. And probably the best music to have when you’re stuck on a lonely planet like Mars. Just saying.
I guess with NASA announcing that they’ve finally found water on the red planet last week, it can only spell serendipity for the film. Just as well, because this is the most fun space movie you would have seen in a long while. You might not walk away from the theater with a heavy heart – like what Gravity and Interstellar do to you – but you will have had a great time nevertheless, watching the travails and comedic outbursts of Mark Watney, the man destined to be remain in history as one of the coolest protagonists ever.
Well the story is pretty obvious by now I suppose. In the not so distant future, on one of NASA’s manned missions to Mars named ARES 3, a heavy sand storm hits the base jeopardizing their return to Earth if they don’t abort immediately. But then, just as they are making their way to the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), a stray antenna hits Mark Watney and he gets carried over by the storm. The other members, deeming him dead, leave the planet. Only, he’s alive and kicking, a truth that will shake NASA and subsequently the whole world. With four years for the next manned mission to Mars that could rescue him, fast depleting food and water- how is this guy ever gonna survive? That is something best seen on the screen.
You may check out my in-depth review of the novel that discusses the story in more detail :
First off, I think they nailed the casting. And at least for me, a lot of them were familiar faces.
- Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) was none other than Murphy Cooper from Interstellar!
- Johannsen (Kate Mara) is Zoe from House of Cards.
- Martinez (Micheal Pena) was that funny guy from Ant-Man.
- Mitch (Sean Bean) is Boromir from LOTR! And also the first one to die in Game of Thrones!
- And Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is…well he’s Matt Damon!
And I know that Irrfan Khan was supposed to play the role of Venkat Kapoor, but unfortunately due to scheduling conflicts with a Bollywood film of his, they had to cast Chiwetel Ejiofor and had to tweak his name to Vincent Kapoor (LOL!) so that now he’s half-Hindu and half-Jewish. But I’m not really pissed as Chiwetel is indeed a very competent actor and brings across the required intensity to his role.
And you couldn’t have imagined a better Mark Watney than Matt Damon. Period. He brings just the right amount of brilliance and smart-assery that’s required for the role. And I was eagerly waiting for all the f-bombs, to be honest, but they did cut back a lot as I think they wanted to maintain that PG-13 rating. But I did really miss that one final “F*** you, Mars” when he’s facing the red planet from the orbit in the end.
The movie also scrapes over most of the science stuff, as expected. Books are different as they have all the time in the world to explain and establish concepts, but in movies you can’t stop to explain all the time. And I think they did strike a fine balance. The set work is fantastic, and The Hab and Rover were really well done. As are the sweeping vistas of Mars.
If I have one concern with the movie is that it never really made me feel the gravitas of the situation that Mark is in. The book does it considerably well. But in the movie, somehow, you believe that this guy has the chops to make it out alive. Maybe it’s because of the inherent optimism that runs through the movie and maybe it’s because they missed to include one of the biggest problems that Mark Watney faces i.e the huge storm on the way to Schiaparelli Crater. So yes, like I said before, this is not a heavy movie. There are problems, and our hero solves them, one after the other. And was the epilogue required? Probably not. But my sister did say that she would have killed the writers had they ended the movie where the book did.