The quality of CGI can be taken for granted these days.
If I’d gone along to The Martian – Ridley Scott’s latest movie starring the likes of Matt Damon and Jeff Daniels about the attempts to rescue an astronaut who is accidentally assumed dead and left by his crewmates on the surface of Mars – ten years ago I would have been awestruck by it. The visuals and scale are tremendous and it looks as real as real can be.
Yet it was only around two hours in that I had to think to myself “Wait, they aren’t actually filming on location on Mars; this is down to special effects”. It’s that good and I don’t think the people responsible are given nearly enough credit. Similarly, the zero gravity effects were seamless.
It’s not just a special effects festival though, which is largely where the appeal of the reasonably similar Gravity lay, this was also a solid story that – very surprisingly – didn’t drag at all in its 140 minutes.
For me, that’s because it wasn’t played entirely seriously. A movie like Interstellar seemed incredibly worthy in its presentation, whereas this was light and at the right moments looked to make the viewer chuckle.
It also has a better cast, even if the some of the actors were clearly hired to play the same characters they’d played on TV shows. Jeff Daniels just played Will McAvoy from The Newsroom as the Director of NASA, while Donald Glover’s character should just have been called Troy from Community. That’s not a bad thing of course, but it was worth noting.
Also worth noting in relation to the cast is the similarity between Matt Damon’s character in this and the aforementioned Interstellar. That’s two movies in two years where he’s played an astronaut stranded on a distant planet. So it’s not exactly original in its theme.
But then that’s Hollywood in a nutshell these days; there’s very rarely an original idea or a game-changing movie anymore. And that’s what will count against The Martian in the years ahead. It’ll be lost in the shuffle of blockbusters set in space.
It’s a pity though, because it’s actually the best one.
So go along to it; it’s nothing you haven’t seen before, but it takes the format and makes it into the most well-rounded and interesting movie of the lot.