“Hang on, you making a bomb without me? Copy that” and “Slow down, Cowboy” are among the countless cavalier and cliched quotes in the Oscar-nominated film The Martian which is now available on DVD.
Director Ridley Scott’s overrated and overly-long (it’s two hours and 21 minutes when it should be 90 minutes) film stars Matt Damon (also nominated for an Oscar) as Mark Watney, an astronaut stranded in space. At the mercy of Drew Goddard’s script, Damon complains he must listen to disco yet seems content to watch Happy Days. Evidently, life on Mars is hell.
Watney is so cocky, instead of showing fear that death is probable, he often kicks back with his feet on the desk and delivers gems such as “Fck you Mars” and “In your face Neil Armstrong.” He’s a smart-ass and supposedly smart (he tells us he went to the University of Chicago and is a great botanist) yet he fails to deduce if he douses his potatoes with ketchup and isn’t growing tomatoes himself, he will eventually run out of ketchup.
Even though his food supply is limited and starvation is a serious threat, he’s never shown savoring dinner. Instead, he eats while talking, often walking away mid-meal to make a video. That is when he’s not taking his shirt off or announcing his thoughts and actions.
But he’s not alone, everyone in the film recites exposition. The entire cast overacts, whether in an attempt to color their flat characters or to oversell their dumbed-down lines. They even read their emails aloud as if the audience cannot interpret the displayed text for themselves.
Since everything is narrated, one doesn’t need to look at the screen to know what’s happening. And perhaps that is a better way to experience the film since audiences won’t be distracted by the fact that most of the crew members and ground experts look more like Millennials from the WB than seasoned space station pros.
Jessica Chastain’s character is in charge of the mission. She and her young female crewbie are brainy beauties who, like Sandra Bullock in Gravity, apparently make it a priority to apply heavy foundation, a little lipstick and lots of mascara before workouts and rescue missions—in space!
Of course the makeup is less noticeable than the intrusive original score which is as corny as the story. The only time the narrative seems to come alive is during a montage to David Bowie’s “Starman” but that’s more to do with the song (which actually doesn’t fit the film) than the actual action onscreen. The worst sequence is the finale; not since Airport 1975 has there been such an utterly ridiculous rescue.
In the end, the best part of The Martian is the end credits since Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” plays, adding a touch of much-needed irony to the otherwise witless action-comedy. Yes, The Martian is a comedy even though the Hollywood Foreign Press received slack for categorizing it as a such. Unfortunately its biggest joke was on discerning audiences who believed most critics and the Academy when they ranked it as one of 2015’s best films.