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Martian, The (3D Blu-ray Review)

18 Jan, 2016 By: John Latchem

$29.98 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $49.99 3D Blu-ray
Box Office $227.23 million
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some strong language, injury images, and brief nudity.
Stars Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover, Mackenzie Davis, Benedict Wong.

Ridley Scott’s The Martian, based on Andy Weir’s novel about a manned Mars mission experiencing a serious snafu, is one of the better attempts at speculating what the future of space travel could look like.

The film wastes no time getting to its premise, with the Ares III survey of the Martian surface interrupted by a fluke storm that results in the mission being aborted early and the crew leaving Mars thinking botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) was killed on the surface.

Of course, Watney somehow survives the storm, and wakes up with the realization that he’s been stranded on the planet and must come up with a way to figure out how to survive for four years until he can mosey over to where the next mission is supposed to land and say hi.

The resulting film plays like a cross between Apollo 13, Gravity and Robinson Crusoe — a gripping account of the litany of obstacles Watney faces trying to survive on his own while NASA personnel have to maneuver around some typical bureaucratic concerns, and some serious logistical problems, to mount a rescue mission.

Collectively, the story elements will be familiar enough to most viewers that the film has to rely on its performances and character dynamics to be effective, a feat it easily achieves, particularly through the strong performance of Damon (who earned an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe win for his efforts). The visual effects help too, though the 3D has a relatively minimal impact given the strong visual palette of the film.

Not as fantastical as Interstellar, The Martian grounds itself in more-realistic scientific principles than most space-based epics, aided by a witty and brisk script from Drew Goddard, a disciple of Joss Whedon and J.J. Abrams. The Oscar nomination for adapted screenplay is well earned.

Goddard, who directed the brilliant horror deconstruction The Cabin in the Woods, was in line to direct The Martian himself before dropping out to help develop a future “Spider-Man” film.

With Ridley Scott at the helm, the film never goes out of its way to seem other than contemporary, never identifying what year it’s supposed to take place (according to the Blu-ray, it’s 2035). That puts the story front and center, without room for the audience to be distracted by over-the-top science-fiction tropes movies like this usually insist on showcasing.

While Goddard’s name is invoked several times in the Blu-ray’s behind-the-scenes extras, he doesn’t put in appearance among the several talking head interviews. “Signal Acquired: Writing and Direction” offers 10 minutes of discussions about the development of the film, which most of the story discussion coming from Weir and Scott, among several other producers and executives.

“Occupy Mars: Casting and Costumes” is a 14-minute featurette with cast members discussing why they took their roles and their experiences making the movie, plus some details about how the costume designers relied on real NASA suits to inspire the look of the film.

The Blu-ray also includes a seven-and-a-half-minute gag reel with some funny moments, plus a number of in-universe videos, including some from the film’s marketing campaign.

The most substantial is Ares III: Refocused, a 17-minute epilogue of sorts in the form of a fun faux-documentary in which some of the characters look back at the events of the film seven years later. The narrative here is humorously dominated by a rivalry between Sean Bean’s and Jeff Daniels’ NASA bigwig characters.

"Ares III: Farewell" is a four-minute clip in which Damon as Watney introduces the crew of the Hermes shaip and hosts a tour before it leaves for Mars.

"The Right Stuff" is a three-minute short in which the Ares III crew meet with a NASA psychologist during mission training, notable mostly for Watney’s insightful ruminations about the nature of Aquaman’s powers to control sea life.

"Ares: Our Greatest Adventure" is a four-minute faux-featurette presented as an episode of "StarTalk," hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson (who looks pretty spry for a man who would be about 77 when the clip would take place).

There’s also a few inconsequential social media fluff pieces in the form of an Under Armour training ad and a “Bring Him Home” video, each a minute or so.

About the Author: John Latchem

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