The Martian

Andy Weir’s bestselling novel The Martian was justly lauded for its clever use of hard science facts to tell a thrilling yet believable tale of science fiction. Of course, the characters needed to be compelling as well if this bold survival epic was to work, and on screen as well as on the page, the futuristic drama is a smashing success. We begin a couple of decades from now as a manned Mars expedition is cut short due to a violent storm on the surface of the Red Planet. During the chaos, botanist-astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is separated from his team, presumed dead, and left behind. But he’s alive, and now he must find a way to survive on a lifeless world that provides no air, no water, and is deadly cold.

What ensues is an inspiring journey of creative problem-solving coupled with a determination to overcome impossible odds. While it’s definitely not a comedy, Damon’s amusing charm certainly shoulders the weight of a challenging film, softening the long stretches of a man alone in a stark environment by infusing Watney’s daily struggles with wit and sass. Through patience and ingenuity, he is finally able to communicate, and an inevitable rescue mission is mounted, an ordeal in itself due to the time and distance involved. Beyond heroism and fascinating science tidbits, The Martian imparts a lesson in teamwork on an unexpectedly global scale, a welcome—if fictitious—beacon of optimism for an increasingly angry real world.

The movie was captured digitally in native 3D by cine- matographer Darius Wolski. (We had sought out an IMAX 3D screening months ago, but every screen we could find had been claimed by The Walk, also shot by Wolski, reviewed elsewhere in this section.) The 2.4:1 frame is packed with layer upon layer of exceptional detail, from the rough terrain of the Martian landscape to the growing toll on Mark’s face and body. The image is clean and stable, even wispy clouds displaying no issues. A subtle “video” look applied to certain footage on monitors works well, and the fine bits of particulate matter swirling all around in the storm sequence only rarely border upon noise, and only in the busiest of shots. The 3D is wonderfully exploited throughout, typically to draw us into the predicament with a subconscious realism, although one memorable shot of the giant spacecraft moving toward the camera gave a sense of outright awe.

Director Ridley Scott was the first to point out that in space, no one can hear you scream, but apparently everything else comes through loud and clear, especially in DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1. Surround involvement is particularly enjoyable, from the fury of an alien sandstorm to the quieter definition of localized debris tinkling behind us. The fury of the aforementioned weather will be more than ade- quately underscored by a worthy subwoofer, ditto the rumble of a mighty rocket engine at liftoff.

The extras seem more like prepackaged rations than a welcome-home feast: a couple of featurettes, a gag reel, and some in-universe bibs and bobs, one starring Neil DeGrasse Tyson, another just a straight-up sportswear commercial. There’s also a still art gallery, but the lack of a Scott commentary (and a Dolby Atmos track, frankly) suggests that a better special edition is in the pipeline, possibly for the 4K Blu-ray?

Blu-ray 3D
Studio: Fox, 2015
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
Length: 143 mins.
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Matt Damon, Jeff Daniels, Jessica Chastain

Jonasandezekiel's picture

Overrated crowd pleasing tripe.