Matt Damon's Struggle To Stay Alive In The Martian's CinemaCon Footage Is Riveting

As many great films as Ridley Scott has made in a wide variety of genres, he will arguably be forever known for his contributions to science-fiction. After all, the guy did make both Alien and Blade Runner, unquestionably two of the most influential and iconic sci-fi stories ever told in cinema. Later this year, the filmmaker will once again try an leave an indelible mark on the genre with the release of The Martian - an adaptation of the book of the same name by Andy Wier - and earlier today we got a look at the movie’s very first footage.

Kicking off the final day of CinemaCon – the annual Las Vegas-based expo for theater owners – 20th Century Fox held their big studio presentation this morning in The Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace, and a debut sizzle reel from Ridley Scott’s next film was screened as a special treat at the end of the event. It was introduced by a video from Matt Damon, and while we got to see maybe only three minutes of actual clips from the movie, the feature looks like it could wind up being one of 2015’s finest.

The footage began with a montage of shots featuring a giant NASA facility, the movie’s all-star cast, as well as a few shots of what appears to be the surface of Mars, all with a voice over narration from Matt Damon’s character, Mark Watney. The star explains that it is part of human nature to help each other out, be it forming search parties to find a hiker lost in the woods, or raising money for earthquake relief. He says that this is done in every country around the world "without exception."

From there, the reel launched into the plot of The Martian, with Jeff Daniels’ Teddy Sanders stepping in front of a microphone during a press conference held in the aforementioned NASA facility. He explains that the organization has been tracking a giant storm about to hit a settlement on Mars, and that as a result they have been forced to abort their mission. Unfortunately, while most of the crew – including Jessica Chastain, Sebastian Stan, Kate Mara, and Michael Pena – were successfully able to reach an escape vehicle, the same could not be said for Mark Watney, who Sanders said died on the surface of Mars. This is not actually true, however, as we then see Watney waking up from being unconscious on the surface of the Red Planet.

Returning to the settlement, Watney (looking more than a little worse for wear) then begins to record a video message laying out all of the extreme challenges that he faces. After all, he has no way to communicate with NASA, is running out of supplies, and understands that knows that it would take about four years for a rescue mission to be planned and performed. Not willing to just roll over and die, though, he proclaims, "I’m left with only one option: I’m gonna need to science the shit out of this." (Despite the very dramatic material, the humor is what really surprised me the most about what was shown).

Starting his survival mission, he realizes that one of the first things he’s going to need to do is cultivate four years-worth of food… albeit on a planet where absolutely nothing grows (this is paired with shots of Watney setting up a grow area, tilling land, and watering the dirt). Of course, he must also find some way to get in contact with NASA and alert them that he’s alive and that they need to come back for him. Luckily, in this task he finds himself successful, as we see Chastain’s character, Melissa Lewis, receiving what appears to be a video message from the surface of Mars featuring a sign reading "Are you receiving me?" Watney is clearly able to register this received message on his end, as he lets out an excited yell and says, "In your face, Neil Armstrong!"

From there the footage featured clips going back and forth from the events on Earth and on Mars, with Lewis bringing her team together and explaining that they are basically going to commit mutiny, and that the rescue mission will be one filled with peril and a high possibility of death. Watney, meanwhile, marks the days he’s been stuck on a wall, and contemplates the very real possibility that he will not survive. The reel ended with a reporter at the press conference asking Teddy Sanders if there is a chance that Mark Watney is still alive – which leaves Sanders silent and averting his gaze.

Thanks to both the actors in the cast and the plot driving the movie, in recent months many people have made comparisons between The Martian, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, and Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, but the CinemaCon footage definitely made the upcoming feature look like it is its own thing, and a project to anticipate in the final months of 2015. We’ll see if Ridley Scott can deliver something cool and new when the film hits theaters on November 25th.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.