Plot: What’s it about?
Is there anything Ridley Scott can’t do? Seriously. I’ve been a fan of his work for so long, it’s hard to think of any of my favorite movies without a few of his in there. Granted, I’ve not seen all of his movies and the most noteworthy of the bunch is Blade Runner. Yep, I’ve never seen Blade Runner. Why? I have no idea. And what’s even more strange is that I’ve got the Blu-ray. I think I need to bite the bullet and sit down and watch it. I’m getting off track, though. I’d read Andy Weir’s novel The Martian a couple of years ago and when I learned that it was going to be directed by Ridley Scott, I was enthralled. Audiences loved it. Matt Damon is in top form and the ensemble cast delivers the goods (with a raised eyebrow for Kristen Wiig’s casting, but I won’t rain on this parade). Ridley Scott, who has helmed so many of my favorite films: Thelma & Louise, Gladiator and White Squall (a very underrated movie) just to name a few. Mars has been done before, but never like this.
The crew of Ares III are on Mars and all is going well. But a freak storm takes out botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) and, he’s left behind and believed to be dead. But…he isn’t. Watney’s puncture wound somehow enabled him to survive the storm and now he’s alone, alive and a 50 million miles from home. What’s a guy to do? Watney quickly deduces that he’s got about a month’s worth of provisions, so his options are: 1. Die or 2. Find a way to live long enough to be rescued. He chooses the latter. He manages to find a way (in a manner I won’t describe) to grow potatoes and therefore extend his rations. He also manages to establish contact with NASA as they hash out a rescue mission. Watney’s ingenuity and determination are the only things keeping him alive and as we follow him through his hurdles, we have to wonder if the human will to survive will be enough to bring him back alive.
The ensemble cast does a great job, led by Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara and Chiwetel Ejiofor just to name a few. But make no mistake – this is Matt Damon’s movie from beginning to end. Damon’s Oscar-Nominated performance carries the film and, special effects aside, the success of the movie rests squarely on his shoulders. Having seen the film and read the book, I’d have to say that the film borrows a bit from Apollo 13, Contact and Cast Away (three fine films in their own right), so if you’re looking for an easy way to explain it to someone – there you go. Thought the movie is set in the near future (2035), it doesn’t feel like it and I don’t think the filmmakers spent too much time trying to convince us of that. The special effects are so seamlessly integrated into the final product, it really draws the audience member into the film. I could go on and on, but let me say that there’s really no way to not like The Martian. It’s man vs. himself and man vs. nature (albeit a martian one) at its finest.
Video: How’s it look?
This film came out on Blu-ray and DVD just prior to the 4K/Ultra HD players hit the market. It would make sense that this would be an ideal candidate for the next generation format. And so it goes that we do have a 4K version as well as a Blu-ray packed in the same case. Having been pretty taken with the Blu-ray version I’d seen, I was curious as to how this would look in 4K. The result was stunning. As is the case with most 4K titles, there really isn’t a night and day difference versus their Blu-ray counterparts. I had the Blu-ray in one player and the 4K version in the other and would stop and switch the settings on my receiver to get as close to an A/B comparison as I could. Yes, differences do exist with the 4K version offering a bit more color saturation and just an ounce of finer detail while the Blu-ray still managed to impress me. The 2.40:1 image still retains everything that made it notable to begin with. The fine martian background, the intricate details of the interior of the ship and pretty much everything in between. This is one of those titles that is something you can show someone who’s never seen anything in 4K. Is the picture quality alone worth the upgrade? I’d say not, but that’s just one person’s opinion.
Audio: How’s it sound?
If you factor in the Blu-ray and 4K version, there are a total of three uncompressed audio tracks on the two discs. The 4K version has gotten a worthwhile Dolby Atoms upgrade (that’s down-sampled to a Dolby TrueHD mix if you don’t have Atoms capability) and the Blu-ray sticks with the impressive DTS HD Master Audio mix found on the original release. There’s an ongoing joke in the film about Commander Lewis’ (Jessica Chastain) love for disco music. That serves as a basis for the soundtrack which features some great tunes from decades past. If you’re paying attention you’ll catch a few subtleties like “I Will Survive” and “Hot Stuff”. With the recent passing of David Bowie, I nearly shed a tear when his “Starman” played in a montage about halfway through. Suffice it to say that these classics have never sounded better. Given that dialogue drives the movie, the vocals are pure as Damon’s deep voice guides us through the film. Sweeping visuals give us a reference point as the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack spans each and every channel in your setup. There’s really nothing more to say – the film sounds as good as it looks no matter which version you choose.
Supplements: What are the extras?
There are some studios that do this right and others that don’t. Looking at this new version, it’d be an easy sell to add the extended cut of the film, maybe throw an extra feature or two on there and repackage it and sell it. Fox, thankfully, hasn’t done that. Well they have, but they’ve added an entire new disc of supplements. All of the supplements from the original version are also intact (albeit, rearranged) so if you were holding out for a definitive release – your wait is over.
4K/Ultra HD Extra
- Audio Commentary – Ridley Scott, Drew Goddard and Andy Weir bleach collaborate for a pretty chatty commentary track. Obviously with Weir being the author of the novel, he’s got a lot to say and has a pretty decent amount of input. Scott’s tracks are always light-hearted and very technical in nature and this is certainy no exception. I found the track to be pretty engaging and it’s a welcome addition to this set.
- Audio Commentary – The same commentary track from the 4K version.
- Deleted Scenes – Three total, though none really seemed to add a lot to the film. The final voiceover sequence is nearly the same minus a few lines of dialogue. Still, it’s nice to have these included.
- Mark Calculates Rover Travel Distances
- Hermes Crew Discuss Sleeping Arrangements
- Mark Looks at Earth from Hermes with Final VO
- The Long Way Home: Making The Martian – Probably the most robust supplement found on this new set is the documentary that breaks down every segment of the film. Running around 75 minutes, this is broken down into six different segments that each focus on a particular part of the pre or post production. The writing and direction are showcased as well as the costume design, shooting locales, stunts and just about everything in between. This could have been the only new feature on the disc and I’d have been satisfied.
- Signal Acquired: Writing and Direction
- The Bleeding Edge: Science and Design
- Occupy Mars: Casting and Costumes
- Three Worlds Away: Production – Hungary and Jordan
- Wrath of the Red Planet: Stunts and Action
- Bringing Him Home: Post-Production
- Investigating Mars – A trio of features that detail the more realistic aspect of space exploration and how they applied to the film.
- Dare Mighty Things: NASA’s Journey to Mars – Part of an ongoing series, the Dare Mighty Things this time focuses on the journey to Mars. We get a series of experts who discuss this situation as well as the likelihood of it all happening (and when).
- The Journey to Mars 101 – We get a look at some of of the things discussed in the movie, how they mesh with “real life” space exploration and some of the constraints and the liberties taken with the film.
- Ridley Scott Discusses NASA’s Journey to Mars – Running a scant 90 seconds, we get Ridley Scott’s .02 on space exploration and the film.
- Gag Reel – Shenanigans on the set. Again!
- Ares Mission Videos
- Ares: Our Greatest Adventure – No, don’t adjust your set, that’s the host of Cosmos himself – Dr. Neil de Grasse Tyson as he gives us a rundown of the mission.
- The Right Stuff – We get a look via some “found footage” at the training regiment of the crew and what it took them to get the call to be a member of the team.
- Leave Your Mark – If you look closely, you’ll see a lot of product placement and this piece is a little more blatant about it. Under Armour anyone?
- Ares III: Farewell – Mark Watney (Damon) gives us a brief introduction to the crew of the Ares III.
- Bring Him Home – Lastly we get a pseudo commercial in a globally-unified effort to bring home Mark Watney.
- Ares III: Refocused – Another “In-World” piece as we flash forward seven years to take a look back on the daring rescue of Mark Watney.
- Production Art Gallery – Conceptual pieces for each of the three main focuses of the film.
- Theatrical Trailers
The Bottom Line
I still love this movie! The inclusion of the director’s cut (or extended version – whatever you want to call it) as well as the plethora of new features (and a Dolby Atoms soundtrack) add to what was already an amazing disc. Throw the old one away or sell it! This is where it’s at!