The Martian – Film Society Review

Written by Joey Palmer



The film festival week is over, people have come and gone and finally we can begin to sit down every Monday evening, relax with friends and watch a quality film. For those who are regulars at the Film Society, it’s a weekly tradition, and for new members like myself, it’s a new and exciting prospect. Whether you’ve seen the film or not, enjoying a film with a group of friends and being able to go for drinks and relax afterwards is the perfect thing after that Monday morning or afternoon struggle. This leads us to the first film of the year – The Martian.

The Martian (2015) is directed by Ridley Scott. Whether or not you like any of Ridley’s newer work, such as Prometheus (2012), the critically panned The Counsellor (2013) or even the mostly forgotten Exodus: God’s and Kings (2014), there’s no doubt that his more recent filmmaking attempts have failed to rekindle the same spirit we last saw in films such as Gladiator (2000). That’s not to say he hasn’t tried though – the director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven (2005) is an overtly long but beautifully made masterpiece, and American Gangster (2007), whilst seemingly consistently forgotten, is simply an awesome flick. Unfortunately, it seems Ridley’s biggest problem is either being forced to cut his movies in ways that weren’t beneficial to him, which was the massive issue with Kingdom of Heaven and the Counsellor, both of which lead to director’s cuts for the films being released, or that he rests too heavily on good old fashioned nostalgia. The Martian, however, bypasses those problems entirely by being refreshing, smart, funny and simple enough in its basic progression that it keeps an audience hooked from beginning to end. You can’t cut out the boring scenes when there aren’t any.

Matt Damon plays Mark Watney, an astronaut on mars that gets left behind when they have to evacuate the surface of the planet. Everyone thinks he is dead – but of course, he survives. And that’s the key word of the film – survives. He survives starvation, survives explosions, survives lack of oxygen and a temperature and terrain that world lead any other man to madness. He survives no matter what. This is what makes it so brilliant to watch – we see as Watney goes through hell and back simply to survive long enough for someone to get him, and he showcases a will so strong that when he downs a bottle of water and exclaims “Fuck you, Mars” you’ll want to high five everyone in the room.

A million miles away on Earth, we’re given a huge cast of characters, lead by Jeff Daniels and Chiwetel Ejiofor, who are desperately trying to get Watney home safely. For the third time, the United States goes further than anyone ever thought possible to save Matt Damon – and its unbelievably compelling. At every turn something goes wrong, and as these two planets millions of miles apart try to communicate in the most basic of ways, we can’t help as an audience relish and smile at every tiny achievement.

Ridley Scott is pretty experience in adapted novels into films, and being that Blade Runner (1982) is the great film ever to exist in the history of time and space, its pretty obvious that he was the perfect man for the job. It feels like a spark has been lit, and Ridley could be back – though he would probably smoke a cigar and tell us we were all full of shit if we ever really even implied he was never off his game. The charisma of Ridley Scott weeds its way into the Martian and is another reason why it ended up being so damn good. It feels alive, like a story that could be real with real people, and that’s because of Ridley’s direction. The real key to directing actors is communication with each actor. Most directors slip up because they use the same technique on every actor, hoping that will herald the same results. Of course, every actor is different, and the level of understand Ridley has of this is second to none. He plants his understanding of the story, the lore, the characters and the emotions into each of his actors through effective communication. Ridley deserves a hell of a lot of credit for the work he put into this film – he is back, and he’s ready to kick some ass.

In the end, if you haven’t seen the Martian, I won’t spoil it. Its great, its fun, and its worth watching. Maybe its a little long, maybe its a little confusing science wise, but its damn entertaining and brilliantly made, so do yourself a favour and watch it.

The Leeds Beckett Film Society runs every Monday evening and is open to every Beckett student that pays the yearly £3 membership. It’s held at the Leeds Beckett SU, and socials are every Thursday evening. Next week the film is Kevin Smith’s comedic masterpiece “Clerks (1994)”.

Hope to see you then!




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