Movie review: The Martian

Movie reviews

Hello, my dear readers!!

I have missed you so much!! I haven’t written in a while because I was buried underneath piles of work. Living on my own while studying is way harder than I expected it to be. I already cannot even look at pasta and I still have 4 more years to go eating it. Anyway, we are not here to talk about my mundane problems. We are here to review the latest space opera – The Martian. I have actually seen it during the opening weekend but only managed to review it a week later…Sorry…

Also, I would like to give a spoiler warning for The Martian if you have not seen it yet.

BTW, it’s been a month since I started taking Introduction to Film course, so tell me in the comments if my reviewing style has changed somehow (maybe it improved, hopefully?).

Comparison

It is not a secret that in the last few years, we had a few high production astronomical blockbusters – 2013’s Warner Bros’s Gravity and 2014’s Legendary’s Interstellar. Now, 20th Century Fox takes its shot and creates a mixture of those two films (even borrows some actors): The Martian has a plot-line of a ‘lonely astronomer lost in space’ from Gravity and ‘his team trying to save him’ from Interstellar. While I have enjoyed both of these films, The Martian might be my favorite out of all 3. I have also seen this film described as Castaway meets Apollo 11, which, I agree, is an accurate representation.

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The tagline for this film was Bring Him Home and it was definitely true to the film because Mark Watney’s attempt to go home was the scientific and emotional core of the film. Also, for me as a newly created emigrant, it’s a theme near and-and dear to my heart. Yes, I’m not stranded on another planet, but being away from home is hard no matter the distance.

Water on Mars!

This movie had perfect time!! Just before its release, scientists actually found flowing water on Mars. Now, we are one step closer to turning The Martian from Science Fiction to Science Reality. If you like to learn more about this exciting development, I suggest you watch this Sci Show explanatory video.

Story & Writing

The Martian’s screenplay was written by Drew Goddard who has written mainly for TV before this. His credits include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost, and Daredevil, which he also helped to produce. His last film script was for World War Z, which I, personally, really enjoyed but sadly been in a minority of moviegoers. Going back to The Martian, I really liked his treatment of this story. Although the movie has no real action, for the most part, a lot of crucial things still happen during the middle of the film and keep the viewer engaged and interested. Nothing happens and a lot of things happen at the same time (we actually just studied films like this in my film class last week). Moreover, it needs to be mentioned that this is not an original story but an adaptation of Andy Weir’s book with the same name. I added it to my reading list and you should too.  I have seen it in bookstores, re-released with the cover that looks like the movie’s poster, so it should be quite easy to get your hands on a copy of it.

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Realism

This movie has been praised for its scientific accuracy and it’s probably the most accurate of the 3 recent astronomical blockbusters. I am not expert on astronomy, physics, botany or any science but I am interested in these fields (that’s one of the reasons why I like sci-fi so much). Anyway, I found this Screen Junkies video on The Martian to be really interesting and helpful in thinking about Movie Science. I love all of their stuff on YouTube , but Movie Science videos are at the top of the list.

Directing and Visuals

The Martian is directed by the fan favorite Ridley Scott. His filmography includes Allien, Blade Runner (got its DVD from the library today), Gladiator, Prometheus and last year’s Exodus. Lots of people had problems with his last film and the whitewashing issue while I loved it. The interpretation of a biblical story was done in much better way than in Noah and the visuals were just stunning. Scott didn’t disappoint with The Martian as well. The Mise-en-Scene (I’ve learned a few fancy words in film class) was just stunning and really realistic while the futuristic technology was realized in a believable fashion as well. The action both on Mars and in the outer space looked amazing too. The NASA base was also a cool set, whose backgrounds could be analyzed separately from the narrative/on their own.

Acting

The titular character of the film and the main start, of course, is Matt Damon. It’s not the first time that Damon is playing a lost astronaut – he had a similar role in Interstellar. However, while he was an extreme douche-bag in that film, here he is a loveable, funny, witty, intelligent and self-efficient character who carries the whole film. Damon’s performance blew me away and definitely turned me into a fan of his. I’ve seen a few of his films and was always on a fence about him, but his role as Mark Watney changed my perspective. I also loved that he was a botanist – you never really see movies that focus on plant biology scientists, films usually tend to pick physics or chemistry scholars, so this was a nice and refreshing change.

While Matt Damon as Mark Watney is the central character of the film, he gets great support from a very diverse, established, and extensive supporting cast. I’m going to divide these characters into Space team and Earth team.

Space team includes:

  • Jessica Chastain as Melissa Lewis, Ares III commander – another Interstellar alumni. Loved her in that film as much as this one.
  • Michael Peña as Rick Martinez, astronaut – the scene-stealer of Ant-Man shined in this film too. Can’t wait to see more of his work.
  • Kate Mara as Beth Johanssen, astronaut – played a similar role to the one she did in Fantastic Four. While they definitely messed up Sue Storm in that film, her character was a great addition to this motion picture’s cast.
  • Sebastian Stan as Chris Beck, astronaut – the Winter Soldier can be more than Marvel’s next Captain America. I am a fan of Stan, so loved seeing him popping up in this film.
  • Aksel Hennie as Alex Vogel, astronaut – rounded up the space part of the cast. Sadly, I’m not familiar with his work, so cannot really comment much, except to say that he was great in this film.

We didn’t get to spend much time with these characters and they didn’t get a lot of development. However, I believe that they served their purpose for this specific film perfectly by providing Matt Damon’s character with great support.

Earth team includes:

We did get to spend more time with the Earth-based part of the cast which had a few surprising performances.

  • Kristen Wiig as Annie Montrose, NASA spokesperson – was the biggest surprise. I have never imagined Wiig in not a comedic role but she blew me away. I wish she would do more action/drama films, but sadly her next movie is Ghostbusters remake, which I have mixed feelings about. Furthermore, I loved her character because she brought the public into the film. I haven’t seen the theme of public’s affect of NASA and NASA’s manipulation of public explored before.
  • Jeff Daniels as Teddy Sanders, head of NASA, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Vincent Kapoor, a NASA mission director, and Sean Bean as Mitch Henderson, a NASA mission director were the powerful trio of NASA and for me, they worked best in their scenes together, because they played off of each others energy. Surprisingly, Sean Bean did not die. Also, seeing him make Lords of the Rings references was amazing!!
  • Donald Glover as Rich Purnell, a NASA astronomer and Mackenzie Davis as Mindy Park, a satellite planner in Mission Control were the 2 younger actors in the Earth team. I liked the nerdy-ness that Glover’s character brought to the film and I appreciated the introduction to Davis as an actress.

Lastly, this film had a few international actors from China: Eddy Ko and Chen Shu. While I don’t know if this side-plot was the part of the original story of the book, but I guess we all know why it was included in the film. Get that Chinese Box Office, Fox!

All in all, this fall is proving to be one of the greatest movie seasons ever! I haven’t seen a film which I didn’t enjoy so far. The Martian is a great adaptation of (I’m sure) an amazing book with wonderful acting from the whole ensemble cast, especially the leading man – Matt Damon. In addition, it has stunning visuals and a strong emotional appeal as well as is scientifically accurate as much as sci-fi film can be accurate.

Rate: 5/5

Trailer: The Martian trailer

The Martian movie poster

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Movie review: Fantastic Four

Movie reviews

Hello!

So, the time has come to review the last comic book movie of this summer and probably the most disappointing one. Let’s go meet the not so fantastic Fantastic Four.

To begin with, Fantastic Four is actually the first comic book that I have ever read. I also loved the animated series when I was a kid. Even though comic books were not popular in Eastern Europe when I was little, everybody seemed to know who the Fantastic Four were. Lastly, back then I even thought that the 2005 and 2007 movie editions were not that bad. Of course, I changed my mind when I re-watched them only recently. Because of that,  I had really high hopes for the reboot. I was hoping that they would get it right this time or that I at least would like it with only a singular watch. Let’s be real – a lot of movie crumble on a closer inspection. But this one doesn’t even need a closer look to come across as really really bad. Let’s get on with my angry rant.

IMDb summary: Four young outsiders teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe which alters their physical form in shocking ways. The four must learn to harness their new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy.

To begin with, this movie is based on the Ultimate version of the Fantastic Four, so the origin story is a bit different. Also, the movie tries to make the story as realistic as possible by relying on scientific explanations. I was really excited that they decided to adapt the Ultimate version because I always enjoy seeing something fresh and unique. Moreover, science fiction has been one of my favorite genre of films since childhood, so I was down for some extraordinary science mambo-jumbo. The thing I wasn’t down for – the Fox studios getting my hopes up after the X-Men Days of Future Past (review) and then crushing my trust in them completely once more. Deadpool please be good. I am begging you.

Directing and Writing

The film is directed by Josh Trank and written by Jeremy Slater, Simon Kinberg and Trank himself. Although, it seems like Fox executives were also involved in the production a lot and their fingerprints are defintely showing. And when the money-driven studio gets in a way of the actual creators, nothing good ever happens.

The movie had tremendous potential and it wasted all of it. The story was okay during the first half, but the ending was terrible. The time jumps made zero sense. The dialogue was cheese and uninspiring as well as full of cliches. The only scene with some interesting dialogue was the one right before they decided to travel to the other dimension and were all drinking in the circle. The Neil Armstrong argument was the best line in the whole film. Sadly, it was short and lasted for just a minute. After that, you had to sit through 100 minutes of awfulness.

In addition, all the character were undeveloped, they never picked a clear main protagonist and tried to develop all of them, but just failed completely. It felt like the movie was missing half the scenes, which probably contained the backstory. Plus, the villain was the most awful of all the characters. They completely ruined Doctor Doom. Also, they didn’t include Sue Storm in the actual experiment that gave them powers but she still got hers anyway. You have one female character, only ONE, and you mess her story up? How is that even possible??

Moving on to the action scenes – there was only like 2 of them. One of them is okay, the other makes no sense. And the CGI…oh God. With the movie that cost this much money and is being made in 2015, you would expect at least the computer effect to look great, but they don’t. It looked like this film was made in the late 90s or early 2000s by some kid in a garage. Basically, it was a cheap looking animation. The only effects that looked quite good were the actual powers of the Fantastic Four. The Thing’s design was okay, but Johnny’s flaming body was the coolest one for me. However, Reed’s stretching abilities were enhanced by allowing him to change his appearance and that scene looked awful. Furthermore, when Sue Storm was flying in her force field bubble, you could clearly spot the places where the cables were attached to her back.

Acting

This movie had an extremely talented cast, who kinda lost their talent while filming. I’m guessing the terrible script made them loose all inspiration to perform.

  • Miles Teller as Reed Richards / Mr. Fantastic. I am a huge Miles Teller fan. I praised him in a separate blog post. But here, he was not that great. He definitely portrayed the nerdy aspect of the character perfectly as well as was a great half-of-a-friendship with Ben, but he was awful as a team leader. His inspiring monologue was so corny and so bad.
  • Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm / Human Torch. I have no idea why the fans got angry when they changed the race of Johnny Storm. It looks like we are still living in the 19th century with all the racism and discrimination that is going on. I never look at a skin color of the character or an actor. I look at their work and the way they present themselves. I really loved Michael B. Jordan in That Awkward Moment and enjoyed his performance here. He was probably my favorite character and, to my mind, did the best job out of all of the cast.
  • Kate Mara as Susan “Sue” Storm / Invisible Woman. I have already complained about the creators decision to not include Sue in the actual experiment. Also, once again they made her into an unlikable and not fun mommy type character. It’s not the 1940s!! If you are changing the backstory and the personality of the character, change it for the better and not for worse.
  • Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm / Thing was quite good. He definitely portrayed the sadness and inner anger of the character well. However, he lacked developed and closure to his story like the others.
  • Toby Kebbell as Victor von Doom / Doctor Doom……Don’t even want to talk about him. This was not Doctor Doom. He looked weird, his power were weirder and his intentions and actions – weirdest of it all.
  • Reg E. Cathey as Dr. Franklin Storm. Fox tried to turn the daddy Storm into Professor Xavier of the X-Men or Nick Furry of the MCU. Not surprisingly, Fox failed. Moreover, the supposedly inspiring monologues were terrible.
  • Tim Blake Nelson as Dr. Harvey Allen. He was as suppose to be the unlikable antagonist of the Fantastic Four. However, since you didn’t really care for the heroes, you didn’t hate the anti-hero either. The government story-line and the militaristic ideas, introduced through this character, were interesting, but the movie never followed up on them.

References

This move didn’t even had a Stan Lee cameo. Seeing Stan always makes the movie better for me, but Fantastic Four didn’t even have that. The only reference which I’ve enjoyed was the Star Trek’s ‘Beam me up, Scotty‘, when the kid Reed Richards was talking about teleportation in the class. That, I though, was clever.

To sum up, the Fantastic Four film took itself way too seriously, it never found a clear direction or a tone. It was way to uneven and a few good performances and interesting lines only reminded us, how good the movie could have been but wasn’t. I don’t believe it will get a sequel. I’m hoping it won’t.

Rate: 2.5/5

Trailer: Fantastic Four trailer

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