Based on Andy Weir's self published 2012 novel, The Martian stars Matt Damon (Elysium) as NASA astronaut Mark Watney, seriously injured and presumed dead by his fellow crewmates on Mars during a huge storm that forced his team to evacuate. But Watney is very much alive, and intends to stay that way, putting his botanical skills and astronaut survival training to good use, figuring out ways to live with limited supplies. Fortunately for Watney he also has a wry sense of humour to keep him sane.
Back on Earth, meanwhile, NASA director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) and some of his team – Chiwetel Ejiofor's (12 Years A Slave) mission overseer, Kristen Wiig's (The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty) media relations expert, Mackenzie Davis' (That Awkward Moment) analyst and Sean Bean's (The Lord Of the Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring) crew supervisor – have to decide what to do, especially when they discover Watney is still alive. And then there are his crewmates, headed back to Earth on the Hermes ship, and seemingly kept in the dark about Mark's status. How will Commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain), programmer Beth Johanssen (Kate Mara), pilot Rick Martinez (Michael Peña), flight surgeon Chris Beck (Sebastian Stan), and German astronaut Alex Vogel (Aksel Hennie) respond when they, too, learn that their fallen friend survived the storm.
Ridley Scott and Matt Damon, along with representatives from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California recently brought 49 minutes of footage to show at a cinema near the scientific establishment, and Scott in particular talked about what inspired him to make the film given that this isn't exactly his first cinematic trip away from Terra firma. "Sci-fi is mostly fantasy, and what was attractive about this is the reality of the situation. I always liked The Right Stuff (1983), which got into the early days of the astronauts, and this, while not the same at all, offered the reality of the situation, the challenges an astronaut may have in 15-20 years," he said. "In essence, this film is about a guy who controls all the feelings about what a terrible situation he's in, and where he is and therefore will look for that internally inside himself and pull out the elements that might make things humorous. He has to do that hour by hour, day by day, so don't be surprised if you find yourself laughing with him, you're allowed to laugh!"
Damon also found himself drawn to Mark's sarcastic, scientific nature. "I think a lot of people, including myself really responded to the character in the book that Andy wrote, and Drew (Goddard) did a great job of capturing that. So it's like being a chef and getting a really good piece of meat to cook – you don't want to overthink it and mess it up too much and bronze the gold medal. I just wanted to keep alive what Andy created," he said. "I think mere mortals like us are captivated by how people like this can do this sort of thing and maintain the preternatural calm in these incredible high stress situations. And that was really attractive about the character, how he kept his sense of humour and this incredible, logical, practical, problem-solving type of thinking, and it's what the real astronauts can actually do."
The Martian arrives on our screens 30 September.