Matt Damon has starred in a number of blockbuster movies since he made it to the big time with well-known films such as “Good Will Hunting” and “Saving Private Ryan.” He has recently made a name for himself in the science fiction genre, first with the epic film “Interstellar” and now with “The Martian,” where he plays astronaut Mark Watney who is stranded on the surface of Mars. The highly anticipated movie has thrived in the box office and with other critics, and it’s no surprise why.
Like in many movies he has appeared in, writers have always enjoyed putting Damon in dire straits and watching the action and drama ensue. “The Martian” jostles viewers’ emotions to the point of fatigue. It is no easy task to bounce from watching part of your home go up in flames to filling in the void with dry humor. What this film provides is the realization of a dreadful situation combined with the struggle to overcome it and the humor to cope. Indeed, it is incredibly funny.
Leading the charge to retrieve their fellow crew member is Jessica Chastain who plays Ares III Commander Melissa Lewis. Chastain has also starred alongside Damon in “Interstellar” where she played Murphy Cooper. Coordinating the rescue on Earth are veteran actors Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean and Kristen Wiig. Chiwetel Ejiofor, notable for his performance in “12 Years a Slave,” plays NASA’s Mars mission director.
Based on Andy Weir’s debut novel of the same name, director Ridley Scott manages to combine action and perilous situations with a healthy dose of comedic relief. Damon’s character Watney makes continuous jokes about his creative engineering (mostly when he tries to grow potatoes) and when his character is not lightening the mood, an enthusiastic NASA astronomer creatively alludes to their situation as similar to J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.” In fact, the amount of humor that is put into this movie is surprising. At times, it even alleviates the feeling that there is anything wrong at all, which the audience knows is not the case. After all, Mars is many millions of miles from Earth and it is estimated it would take a manned spacecraft as many as 300 days to get there.
Nevertheless, it is always important to maintain high hopes about survival, and these lofty beliefs translated well into the movie’s success. It offers something for every viewer and gives reenergized vigor to NASA’s effort to actually reach the red planet within the foreseeable future. It is obvious that Scott and his production crew spent a lot of time making sure the story elements were scientifically correct and feasible in a Martian environment, considering Watney was faced with more than one insurmountable task including growing food and creating water. Thankfully some of his professional skills include botany.
You may ask, “Where do you film a movie in a landscape that looks similar to Mars?” The answer: Jordan. Set designers followed in the steps of other Mars-based films to the Jordanian valley of Wadi Rum. The red sandstone and granite rock provided a highly accurate backdrop for Watney’s travels in the habitat’s rover.
After months of hype and close-ups of Matt Damon’s face, “The Martian” has finally hit theaters and has quickly become the critical and commercial success it was expected to be. Do not fear, though. If the trend continues, it will not be the last time the movie industry will spend money on retrieving his characters again.