The underdog success story of Andy Weir’s novel The Martian was a hugely encouraging publishing phenomenon – an initially self-published book by an unknown writer with a background in computer science, which eschewed many traditional storytelling devices in favour of attempting to be as scientifically accurate as possible, seemed to tap into a promising public appetite for intelligent material that popular novels often don’t tend to embrace. It’s therefore been very pleasing to see its success translate across into the film adaptation, which has garnered lavish praise for its similar approach as well as becoming director Ridley Scott’s most financially successful film.

Scott was a terrific choice to direct; he helped write the rulebook for science fiction visuals at the start of his career with Alien and Blade Runner, and he does a terrific job with colour and layout here to really make what could have been a dry tale pop out of the screen (quite literally if seen in 3D; as with Prometheus┬áhe shows himself to be one of the few live action directors left managing to really take advantage of the technique). He’s helped along by a razor-sharp adaptation by Drew Goddard (who trims the novel into a slick narrative without dumbing down a thing) and a fiercely likeable, surprisingly humorous lead performance from Matt Damon. It’s a film about “science-ing the shit out of it”, and its wholehearted embrace of that concept is a step in the right direction.

A Hollywood adaptation of a pretty technical novel that doesn't make everything stupid8
Ridley Scott's ability to make everything visually memorable9
Drew Goddard's narrative structure and respect for his audience's intelligence9
Matt Damon's charisma and human relatability9
Embracing the science of a story as something which makes it better, rather than getting in the way9
Bechdel Test Passes
  • Features more than one named female character
  • The named female characters talk to each other
  • They talk about something other than men
Bechdel Test Failures
  • n/a
9Overall Score

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