The Martian is not a comedy. That much we can all agree on. But it is a great film, and I submit to you that it deserves to win the Oscar for Best Picture when those gold statues are dished out next month. Here’s why…
Â Ridley Scott At The Top Of His Game
Â The legendary British filmmaker has had his fair share of hits and misses when it comes to his recent output, but The Martian saw him back to his absolute best. Benefitting from a focused script (more on that later), Scott lends a master’s touch to the material, crafting a piece of cinema that is both engaging and fun to follow, as well as being amazing to look at — no surprise given that memorable visuals are somewhat of a trademark for Scott. Such a great of movies producing his best work in a while — perhaps even one of his best overall — is something to be celebrated. Ridley may have missed out on his anticipated Best Director nod, but the film he made didn’t.
Â A Great Script By Drew Goddard
Â As I mentioned above, the film benefits greatly from a very good script by Drew Goddard, known for Cloverfield, Cabin In The Woods, World War Z and TV’s Daredevil. The script is tight, focused and surprisingly witty. Adapted from the novel of the same name by Andy Weir, it’s a testament to Goddard’s work that the film is loved by both those who were already fans of the novel and filmgoers who are new to the story. On this occasion, the individual’s work has been recognised as Goddard has quite rightly received a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay — but this was yet another element done right in the making of the overall picture.
Â Matt Damon’s Central Performance
Â Amongst more startling, intense performances it is easy to lose sight of how good Matt Damon is in The Martian. Given the nature of the story, a lot of the film rests on his shoulders as he is stranded alone on an empty planet. Damon plays Mark Watney as a likeable, funny, slightly eccentric and ultimately relatable hero who the audience can’t help but connect with and root for. Nailing all of that successfully is hard for any actor to do without coming off as either one note, boring or just plain annoying, but Damon passes with flying colours, and Watney becomes a memorable (and quotable!) protagonist.
Â Putting The Science In Science-fiction
I have a passing interest in actual science, in that I find it fascinating and appreciate its importance, but my actual knowledge is ultimately lacking in certain areas. I also love the sci-fi that tends to largely ignore scientific fact, the ‘science fantasy’ movies, for lack of a better term. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the flip side, especially when it’s done with such care and love as it is in The Martian. The scientific accuracy of the film is well documented by now, impressing the likes of NASA and famously picky astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. It’s genuinely refreshing to see a film care about those details and work to make them right, something that comes across even to the non-scientists in the audience. It’s still a sci-fi film, meaning that it takes liberties when necessary, but as Tyson himself said, the film earned that right once it had laid the foundations based on actual research.
Â It’s a great movie
Â The main reason I believe The Martian deserves to win the Oscar for Best Picture is simple, and the result of all of the above mentioned points along with a host of others: It’s a great film.
All of the key players are working at the top of their game, with a real appreciation for the material and the story being told. As for that story, it’s simple yet effective — and in the year that Star Wars returned to exactly that formula which made it so popular in the first place — we were shown that sometimes a simple story well told can be very, very effective. It can make for great cinema. However said story is also steeped in detail and research, and as such you never get the sense that the movie was made on autopilot.
Above all else, it’s a fantastic experience. The Martian has its more dramatic and tense moments, but on the whole it’s a fun film that is a genuine joy to experience. It even has a great soundtrack that includes David Bowie’s ‘Starman’. C’mon, what more could you want?
I’ve seen all 8 of the Best Picture nominees, but The Martian sticks out as the one I want to revisit on numerous occasions. Sure, there are others that are more daring, maybe even more original and important in the grand scheme of things, but when I watched The Martian it gave me that feeling that only cinema can. Don’t get me wrong, many different types of film can do that for me, my all time favourites include silent films, westerns, experimental — you name it. But on this occasion it just happened to be a film about an astronaut botanist “space pirate” who gets stranded on Mars and resorts to growing potatoes whilst listening to Disco music and eating crushed vicodin for dinner. Who would’ve thought?