By: Mike Agostinelli
Every so often a movie comes along that’s so loaded with critical adulation and hype that even one negative nitpick about said movie results in threats of death or crucifixion. Well, maybe not that serious, but mostly something that falls between ridicule and a discrediting of ones integrity. Is The Martian one of these films? From what I can tell, yes. Does that make it any less enjoyable? Yes and no.
At this point, I really don’t need to provide a plot synopsis. Matt Damon gets stuck on Mars. Its a simple concept, one that everyone knows about at this point. And when Matt Damon is on screen, things are awesome. These films, where one man is left alone in a hostile environment to fend for himself, they tend to be either absolutely riveting or bone crushingly boring. The Martian is a captivating ride in its Damon-centric sections (say that three times fast). But when we move away from Damon, flashing to all the desperate rescue attempts and activities on Earth, a sense of fatigue settles in.
Who really wants to see Jeff Daniels and Kristin Wiig have endless boardroom and control rooms conversations, getting all NASA tech-talk happy while Donald Glover flits in and out, acting weird and quirky just because he CAN act weird and quirky? I don’t, that’s for sure. Damon reels you in with a solo acting tour-de-force, while the Earth sections reek of an NBC Thursday night sci-fi show that gets canceled after six episodes. Even the unflappable and universally talented Sean Bean can’t make these chunks of the film pop in any measurable way. They simply sit, marinating and droning on for long after their natural expiration points.
When we cut to Damons space crew, who are still on their way home for months after seemingly leaving him for dead, the sense of urgency and tension from Damon’s sections carries over. You get the sense a version of this film that solely focused on the space elements of the story and only cut to Earth when it was absolutely necessary would have been better paced, more riveting, and would have brought down the films costs considerably. In this budget-conscious culture we live in these days, I’m shocked this wasn’t an imposed mandate.
The score for the film, by the sometimes reliable Harry Gregson Williams, fades into the background. Its barely noticeable save for a few little snippets here and there. What I’m saying is it’s the worst kind of movie score, one that supplies ominous tones in place of recognizable themes. Perhaps that was the point, but with a more prominent background musical element the material may also have been elevated.
All this bashing may give across the impression that I disliked this movie, and that would be a false assumption. It’s good. It does its job, in some places doing it extremely well. But is it deserving of the critical fellatio that its been getting? No. It’s a basic space movie. Not the second coming of Christ.
I give The Martian a 7 out of 10.
Next up: I’ll return in two weeks with a review for the movie I’m most pumped for this October: Goosebumps. Yeah bro.