Unlike Alien, in The Martian, there are no extraterrestrials to be found. There aren't any cats, either. There's a spaceship, though, so that's something. And there's some baby plants, too. Lots of baby plants. We open on Mars. Mark Watney (Matt Damon) and his fellow crew mates, led by Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain), are nearing the end of their mission. But a storm soon approaches, one that could potentially threaten the mission. They're forced to evacuate the planet, but as they're doing so, Watney is hit by a large chunk of debris, seemingly killing him and hurtling him who-knows-where. The crew have no choice but to take off, leaving Watney's body behind. After the storm clears up, Watney wakes up, impaled and alone on the desolate planet. He's forced to used his botanist skills to survive on this lifeless planet for the next four years, which is when the next manned mission will arrive. But he must also find a way of contacting NASA's leader, Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels), to let him know that he survived the incident and is in serious need of a rescue.
Despite tackling some very serious subject matter and the themes that go with it, eg. lonlieness, the will the survive etc., The Martian is a witty and often hilarious experience. It's full of optimism and humour, taking itself seriously, but having fun as well. It's not all gloominess and depression for two and half hours. Instead, it's got hope, heart, thrills and a groovy disco soundtrack featuring the likes of David Bowie and ABBA. Watney constantly makes fun of the music, but deep down, he's having fun with it, and so are we. It's similar to that of Guardians of the Galaxy, but not quite on the same level. It is, however, a slightly better film, despite having approximately zero talking trees.
The central story on mars is easily the most entertaining aspect of this movie, but this film has a lot more going for it than just Matt Damon growing plants, accidentally setting himself on fire and making a bunch of video logs. That takes up most of the runtime, sure, but this film is also about the people of Earth and his crew mates, and it features a cast too big to list. We're constantly cutting back and forth between NASA's attempts to bring him home, and the reluctance of Jeff Daniels' character. He doesn't want to risk the lives of anyone else to save just one man. The rest of the world, including a pivotal character played by Sean Bean and a shockingly important character played by Donald Glover, disagrees. Just like Damon's story, there's never a dull moment here, either. Scott has made science fun, and unlike last year's Interstellar, the science actually makes sense in this movie.
With a career as wide ranged and as brilliant as his, it comes as quite a surprise to say that with The Martian, Matt Damon gives one of the best performances he's ever given. His character is alone on mars with not much more to eat than potatoes and ketchup, and he's forced to survive here for quite some time. His performance is phenomenal, completely capturing you into this world. I found myself emotionally invested in his story, and when shit hits the fan, my jaw was dropped. His character is sarcastic and honest, and Damon gives an Oscar-worthy performance in what should end up being an Oscar-winning movie.