What’s it about? Based on the best-selling novel by American author Andy Weir (which he self-published in 2011, before it was re-released in 2014), this is the eagerly-anticipated film adaptation. It concerns astronaut Mark Watney, a botanist who becomes stranded on Mars after an accident his crewmates believe he died in. Faced with living on the inhospitable Red Planet for a minimum of four years, Watney must uses all of his science knowledge to survive until NASA send rescue.
Who’s directing? Ridley Scott brings his considerable talents to this project, as one of cinema’s best ‘world-builders’. It’s been awhile since he’s had material worth his efforts, but this already feels like a return to form after a string of disappointments (Robin Hood, Prometheus, The Counselor, Exodus: Gods and Kings). The Martian will be his fourth sci-fi film.
Who’s in it? Matt Damon plays Watney, having only recently appeared as an intrepid astronaut in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. Plenty of famous faces fill supporting roles back on terra firma: Jessica Chastain (another Interstellar alumnus) as Commander Lewis, Kristen Wiig in a rare dramatic role, Jeff Daniels (putting his Newsroom gravitas to good use), Game of Thrones‘s Sean Bean, End of Watch‘s Michael Peña, Fantastic Four‘s Kate Mara, and 12 Years a Slave‘s Chiwetel Ejiofor. TV fans may also recognise Halt and Catch Fire‘s Mackenzie Davis and Community‘s Donald Glover.
Best dialogue? “I have no way to contact NASA. Or my crewmates. But, even if I could, it would take four years for another manned mission to reach me. And I’m in a hab designed to last 31 days. So, in the face of overwhelming odds, I’m faced with only one option: I’m gonna have to science the shit outta this.”
Best moment? While everything looks great, the only sequence that feels unique is when Watney’s seen scrawling calculations onto sheets of plastic he’s covered his equipment in, and attempting to farm a small patch of soil to last him four years. Much of the novel’s success was down to how realistic and clever the hero’s resourcefulness was, so that should hold the film in good stead.
Worst-case scenario? This will inexplicably fall prey to the Hollywood curse of modern Mars-set films, joining Red Planet, Ghosts of Mars, Doom, Mission to Mars, Mars Attacks!, John Carter, and Mars Needs Moms.
Best-case scenario? Another Interstellar-sized box-office hit, but with a more plausible survivalist angle that should draw a wider crowd. It’s Cast Away on Mars.
When does it launch? It’s recently been brought forward to 2 October 2015 in the US, but the UK will have to wait until 27 November.