|'The Martian does a good job of investigating the realities of a bureaucracy behind endeavours that are eminently scientific, inherently artistic'|
Really though, a lot of credit should go to writer Drew Goddard, who cuts the right sections of the source novel (a couple of late disasters for stranded astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon), which aren't needed, a bit of romance and a smattering of Watney's slightly smarmy humour) and produces something that feels tight, yet is simultaneously allowed to ramble for a deserved one-hundred and forty-one minutes.
Not that Damon and Scott deserve zero credit for their work here. Damon's performance changes the humour from Andy Weir's novel to make Watney seem desperate for levity, rather than flippant because he is overly arrogant, though some of that part of the character is kept; note sections where he wants to be the 'first' man to do things. Scott too shows the experience of a man who has made the odd Sci-Fi before. Despite the hook of the film (Watney is stranded for a long time before rescue attempts can be organised) Scott pleasantly refrains from 'losing your mind' clichés. There are few in the book too, to be fair to Weir, and Scott is well guided by the writer's creation.
Away from Watney, The Martian does a good job of investigating the realities of a bureaucracy behind endeavours that are eminently scientific, inherently artistic. Watney may be a single man and bringing him home a single mission, but NASA here is like any other publicly responsible organisation and there are attempts here to show it as such. The film does though leave itself open to becoming 'NASA-porn' (the film was made with their input) and Goddard is wise to keep a later involvement from another agency, which must have been a tempting candidate for a cut. Keeping it in creates not only a smidgen of variety from the 'Americans are good', but backs the film's inclusive message.
Though it is ultimately difficult to begrudge the promotional aspects of the film towards NASA, it is clearly something which Scott is aware of and combats through more elements than the new set of third act cameo characters. A kind of meta-narrative develops with Kristen Wiig's twitchy, occasionally antagonistic (though less so than the book) media relations professional consistently reminding the big wigs that certain things don't play well in the media if they want space travel to continue. NASA directors Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) and Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) are, meanwhile, well aware of the need for positive stories to re-enforce their funding position. Early on in the film, before it is known to Kapoor that Watney is alive, he suggests trailing the next phase of Mars launches as the 'mission to bring home Mark's body'.
By the finale, the feeling the film gives to you is very much that the arduous nature of Watney's journey - the conflict of the film - has been worth it whatever the outcome because we have explored, we have dared to dream and pushed our limits, we have aspired for the unattainable stars and attained them. This is, as mentioned, of course difficult to begrudge, mainly because it is entirely true, a rare message of optimism from a genre often intent on destruction.