** out of *****
Overrated hack Ridley Scott has made a handful of moderately passable pictures since Alien, his 1979 horror-in-space masterpiece. Any tepid accolades I might allow for The Martian, however, are little more than back-handed compliments. The best thing I can say about the picture is that it’s watchable; the finest work Scott has wrenched out of his rectum since the miraculous aforementioned fluke.
By now, most viewers will know that The Martian details a manned mission to Mars in which one astronaut (a cute, hunky and plucky Matt Damon) is left behind for dead, only he’s most assuredly alive and needs to muster all his scientific know-how to survive until a rescue mission can be launched. And that’s pretty much it. One man alone against the Angry Red Planet.
Based on the popular novel by Andy Weir and decently scripted by Drew Goddard, the film-on-paper must have seemed a sure-fire science-fiction survival tale with relatively distinctive characters, both in the rescue ship and back on Earth at NASA, plus a lot of great monologue-style dialogue for Damon to utter as the stranded astronaut.
The film conjures memories of Byron Haskin’s (The War of the Worlds, From the Earth to the Moon, Conquest of Space) modest, but terrific 1964 survival adventure Robinson Crusoe on Mars. The memories Ridley Scott’s film will eventually inspire are mostly how good Haskin’s film was and how woefully overblown and occasionally dull The Martian is.
We know from the beginning that yummy Matt is not going to die and that good, old-fashioned American bravery and know-how is going to save the day. The ride to get to this predictable conclusion is mildly diverting at best. Buried beneath its layers of fat is a much snappier, pulpier movie wanting to burst forth like the parasitical penis-creature that exploded from within John Hurt’s chest in Alien.
I’ve always wondered what happened to the Ridley Scott of that 1979 classic.
The Martian could have used that guy.
Watch the trailer: