The news is out that audiences flocked to The Martian in droves this weekend, despite parts of the country being threatened with inclement weather. With a box office haul that almost upset Gravity's record setting October weekend two years ago, the story of Matt Damon and his fight against the Martian wilderness is something people are excited about.
But just what makes The Martian such a critical and financial darling? Why is this movie made by a director that's been hot or cold with fans, in a month that's usually reserved for dumping movies without tent pole appeal so damned entertaining? Well, there's 5 clear reasons that we feel The Martian is going to be on a lot of top 10 lists come this December.
It's One Of The Funniest Movies Out ThereBoth in Andy Weir's original novel, and in Drew Goddard's exemplary screenplay, Mark Watney is an incurable smart-ass. Apparently, he's not the only one in the universe of characters that inhabit The Martian, with plenty of the film's actors getting their own compliment of laughs throughout. All the while, the inherent drama of the film's story isn't robbed by its sense of humor, making the characters in the story feel more three dimensional.
It's The Best Ridley Scott Film In YearsRidley Scott's career has always been one of intense scrutiny among cinephiles, but the past decade or so of films he's made have been the greatest period of debate. However, it's safe to say that The Martian is one of his best films in years, if not a top 10 candidate from his entire body of work. Utilizing tools and flourishes that both he and his brother have used so many times in the past, while at the same time making a film that could only be made today, is a grand joy to behold on the big screen.
It's Ensemble Casting At Its FinestA film with an ensemble cast can very easily get lost in the telling, yet The Martian has three core groups of characters that all properly feed into the overall plot-line. With Watney himself stuck on Mars, the Ares III crew returning to both Earth and Mars, as well as the folks at Earth's various space agencies trying to retrieve Watney from the red planet, there are a lot of faces and names to remember. Yet each one of them has an important part to play, and each of them shines in their own way – making for an even more impressive sum of the already wonderful parts.
There Is No True VillainWith a film like The Martian bureaucracy vs. action is all too easily used as the force of conflict, and there's still some of it on display both in Andy Weir's book and Drew Goddard's screenplay. However, it's not the central conflict of the film, and as such there's no real villainous character that you can despise outright. While bureaucracy does butt heads with action, it doesn't make a big fuss when it's overridden. If anything, Mark Watney's true conflict is that of him versus the harsh Martian atmosphere, firmly planting The Martian in that comfy archetype of humanity vs nature.
It's Rooted In Science Without PanderingPerhaps the greatest credit to The Martian is the fact that the film is deeply rooted in hard science fiction, without pandering to the audience. While Mark Watney monologues for the camera, it's not to brag or be smug, it's to explain his thought processes while working a problem that's key to his survival. The Martian doesn't dumb things down or hold the audience's hand, rather it explains in a language that both science geeks and common film-goers can both understand.