Do you ever just randomly come to really really love a movie but you can’t exactly explain why? Well, that’s kind of what The Martian is to me. While this is certainly a great movie that wouldn’t fall under my “guilty pleasures” list, ever since I first watched this in theatres (in 3D for some reason too) when it came out back when I was in high school, I’ve consistently revisited and rewatched it numerous times in the past couple of years. The Martian is a science fiction film about an astronaut, Mark Watney, who accidentally gets left behind on Mars and must learn how to survive as NASA works tirelessly to find a way to rescue him. It stars Matt Damon in the lead role, but he is accompanied by a stellar cast with names like Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Benedict Wong, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. As a big fan of space films in general, I have to say, The Martian is probably my favourite one yet.

[Please note there are spoilers in this review; read at your own discretion]

Mark Watney alone on Mars

In all honesty, nothing about this film would have worked without the unwavering optimism and bright personality of the main protagonist, Mark Watney (played by Damon). Completely isolated and stranded on Mars, you would think he would just give up all hope and succumb to his fate (I know I would), but he didn’t. Of course, we wouldn’t have a movie if that were the case, but that’s besides the point (go Mark!). I just really appreciated how the movie didn’t go down a dark and gloomy route despite the unfortunate circumstance, and that director Ridley Scott instead approached the film with this sort of optimistic tone. Because the best thing about this film was watching Mark use his intelligence to overcome any challenge he faced, such as finding a way to grow potatoes on a lifeless planet, a feat which could not have been accomplished if he didn’t stay motivated and hopeful.

And it wasn’t just that he was smart, Mark also had such a goofy, and loveable personality that made it so easy for the audience to root for him. To me, it was vital that they created a character we could empathize with because it made all of his victories even more exciting, but it also made all his lows feel even worse. Having such a relatable character allowed me to feel more connected with him, and it’s what kept me interested for the duration of the film because I grew to love and care for this character. Because of this, there’s so many memorable moments that really stand out for me – I’ll never forget the shock and concern I felt the first time I watched Mark’s potato farm blow up, or the relief I felt when he was finally rescued by his old crew on the Hermes.

Mark Watney on Mars

The really cool thing about The Martian though is that while we fully dive into Mark’s perspective on Mars, we’re also jumping back and forth with NASA to see how they plan on saving him. This is one aspect of the movie that I’ve always enjoyed: getting to see two different perspectives of the same story. And although there were certainly more than a couple moments of disagreement, I loved seeing how the movie is really all about teamwork and cooperation. Everyone is doing the absolute most that they can to try and rescue Mark, and along the way, NASA is supported by some remarkable individuals and organizations. The final rescue mission was the culmination of everyone’s hard work, and this focus on unity also helped make the movie feel so much more positive and bright despite the scary situation Mark was put in.

But if there’s one thing I absolutely have to compliment The Martian on, it’s the cinematography. I just think this film is so beautifully shot and I’m repeatedly amazed by how well they were able to capture the vastness and strange beauty of Mars. I always love space films for all the stunning imagery we get to see and The Martian is no exception. The contrast between the very populated and busy scenes on Earth versus the empty and desolate land of Mars really allows the audience to get a taste of the loneliness that Mark is experiencing. Just looking at all that never-ending meaningless sand and dirt feels so overwhelming.

The Hermes crew reading the storm warning

It’s hard for me to put into words exactly why I love this movie so much, but I just do. I think the story is so compelling and interesting, the characters are all nicely written, the visuals look fantastic, and surprisingly, it’s also very funny. Matt Damon is an absolute star in this one and I’ve always appreciated the energy he brought to his character. While the film reaches a near 2h 30m runtime, I’ve never once complained or felt it was too lengthy. In my opinion, I’ve always felt it was the perfect length where we get a fully fleshed out story without any scenes that feel unnecessary or forced. As arguably my most favourite space film, The Martian is getting a 9.5/10 from me. If you haven’t seen it, I definitely recommend you give this one a try (it’s on Disney+ in Canada!).