Everything can still go wrong - it is a Ridley Scott movie, after all - but as of today’s footage presentation The Martian looks absolutely fucking fantastic, a movie with all the science you want in a hard science fiction movie but with the real emotion you want from a dramatic movie. Basically it looks like what we wanted Interstellar to be.
Based on the novel by Andy Weir, The Martian sees Matt Damon as an astronaut who gets left for dead when his Mars mission evacuates the planet in the face of a monster storm. Trapped on the red planet in a station only intended for a 31 day habitation Damon must, as he says in the footage, ‘science the shit out of this’ situation, and figure out how to grow enough food to keep him alive for the four years it would take to mount a rescue operation. Meanwhile his earthbound crew, alerted to his survival, must decide whether to mutiny and head back for him, and figure out whether the effort will end up killing them. And on Earth everybody is transfixed by the growing drama.
The footage shown was stunning; Ridley Scott shoots space ship interiors with a flair that is both realistic and inspirational. These are real spaceship/station interiors but they look cool. The crews look cool. Damon looks cool. He’s perfect casting - his sweet charm makes you really root for him. It’s what made his casting in Interstellar in almost the exact same role also work, and what made his character’s reveal also work.
The footage shown was low on FX and outdoor shots - we did get a couple of looks at Mars exteriors, and they looked stunning. But I don’t think the FX is going to make this movie - the footage featured Damon’s voice over talking about how one of the most basic human impulses is to help other people in times of crisis, and I think that emotion, that inspirational quality, is what could make The Martian an extraordinary movie. And the struggle to survive is going to be the other thing that powers this movie to greatness - a sequence of Damon duct taping his helmet shows just how desperate things get.
The Martian could be one of the great films of 2015... if Ridley doesn’t screw it up by getting too clinical. Don’t screw it up, Ridley.