In another "late to the party" moment, I sat down last night and watched the extended cut of The Martian. And I watched it with the extra 10 minutes, which for an already 141 minute movie is impressive. But take a moment and realize that the majority of his time on screen, Matt Damon is alone. No one to interact with, joke with or even to work off of. What he does here is absolutely amazing. We have a role in the film, we're the cameras that he is talking to. We are the people Dr. Mark Watney is talking to in his over 500 days on Mars.
This film is an incredibly well act drama wrapped around science-porn. It's the equivalent to putting Adam Savage on another planet, task him to survive, while Jamie Hyneman and the rest of the Mythbusters are tasked to bring him home. It wouldn't surprise me if the novel author Andy Weir was picturing that in his mind when he wrote it.
For the non-science lovers, the film boasts one of the most impressive casts to share a screen in a very long time. Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Sebastian Stan, Micheal Pena, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover and Benedict Wong all make incredible use of the small amount of screen time they have. They were able to show a growing romantic relationship between Stan and Mara in about thirty second of the film. There are some real science moments and a nice nod to NASA's past with the use of the Pathfinder probe… I was personally hoping he was going after the Viking, the first probe sent to Mars… but that was personal as my uncle worked on that project.
They also tossed in some pop culture references including two video games, Leather Goddesses of Phobos and Zork II, which both have levels that take place on Mars. The secret project Donald Glover's character comes up with is called Elrond, a nod to Lord of the Rings, but having Sean Bean in the room at the time made it even better. And the ultimate geek nod is a reference to Iron Man near the end that not only helps save the day, but is also appropriate since six members of the cast have either been in or are about to be in Marvel franchises.
Director Ridley Scott has put together a brilliant film that keeps you actively involved for the entire movie. Any time you might be tired of watching Damon alone on the planet, there is a cut back to a bevy of talented actors trying to save his life.
The extended cut Blu-ray comes with an audio commentary by Scott, Weir and writer Drew Goddard, deleted scenes, a making of documentary and a featurette about NASA's journey to Mars. It's a very good film with a lot of great extras and well worth owning.