Gravity Meets Apollo 13
Going some way towards redeeming himself after the visually opulent but narratively flawed Prometheus, Ridley Scott keeps things a whole lot more simple with this space survival drama.Despite being one of the best sci-fi films of 2015, The Martian isn’t even as grounded in the genre as Interstellar and is far more Gravity in its documentary-style depiction of these fictional events that take place when an astronaut is stranded on Mars. Indeed, in 50 years time, future generations would likely be forgiven for thinking this was based on a true story, such is the Apollo 13-style plotting. Right from its Alien-esque opening credits, it is apparent that Scott has gone for a more Spartan approach to his latest epic, allowing both the bestselling novel’s narrative and the grand red planet’s striking landscape to speak for themselves, without fanfare or flourish. He works wonders with the tale, building off a first act tailspin that posits our hero, Mark Watney, in an impossible situation 140 million miles from home.Further reminding us of Gravity in that Matt Damon’s Watney could have easily been a younger version of Clooney’s seasoned veteran in the former film (or, indeed, of Redford’s protagonist in the similarly-themed underrated gem, All is Lost), there’s a fine balance of intelligence and humanity that he brings to the role, of die-hard determination and pragmatic matter-of-factness. Perhaps the wit (controversially winning Best Comedy at the Golden Globes) gives the piece a lighter tone than Cuaron’s modern masterpiece – which was essentially just 90 minutes of sheer breathless tension – but Scott is always ready to bring suspense back to the fore as Watney struggles through one obstacle only for the briefest reprieve before the next. The Martian is an accomplished piece of filmmaking from Scott, who is on strong form here.
Picture QualityHitting Region Free UK Blu-ray complete with an excellent 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen, The Martian effortlessly blends a near-documentary-style approach to the material with some breathtakingly epic, faux Mars horizons, in traditionally orange/gold hues. Clarity is resoundingly good, particularly in these wide open vistas, and only varies across the array of various visual formats adopted here (for example, the video logs, with their tech overlays - and, even then, not in an appreciably bad way).
The Martian's visual opulence brings the red planet to life.
The colour scheme, understandably skewed to cool whites and blues for the inner workings of the space labs and NASA research facilities, and hot oranges and golds for the barren red planet itself, remains rich and refined; and boasts some deep black levels that remain strong (except perhaps in a couple of shots back home) and round out what is a visual feast and an excellent video presentation that runs just shy of reference perfection.
Sound QualityBoasting an excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track, The Martian promotes clear and coherent dialogue, largely dominating the fronts and centre channels for the majority of the runtime (with a suitably slightly muffled video blog sound quality, which never impinges upon coherence but gives those segments the added quality of a recorded piece) whilst the effects and score are the elements that truly ignite the soundstage and bring your living room to life.
The Martian's stunning surround track also breathes life into this barren environment.
Finely observational, the Mars environment with its howling winds and punishing sandstorms batters at your living room walls, and sweeps all the way around you, expertly disseminated across the array, whilst rockets and explosions thrum underfoot; whilst beeping and an electronic hum remind us of the perpetual technological side to things within the labs. The score isn't exactly memorable, but allows for some pervasive backing to the events, and engages in all the key moments. Overall, easily reference material, this is an outstanding track.
Blu-ray ExtrasWith only a couple of actual Behind the Scenes Featurettes, the majority of The Martian’s additional material boils down to a series of faux documentaries and video blogs from the cast, in character. The two dedicated featurettes look behind the story and direction, and the casting and (rather specifically) spacesuit design, whilst a series of extended Mark Watney blogs (both by and about him) feature the cast, including Damon, in character, talking about their mission, and the space projects. The disc is rounded off by an extended Art Gallery and a Trailer.
The Martian is also available in 3D, and with a Steelbook package that is similarly 3D-focused.
Blu-ray VerdictA very impressive return to form for Scott, landing with a very impressive Blu-ray release.
Excellent video and audio, a nice little selection of extras, and the option to go 3D or Steelbook, should your set-up/predilections dictate, leave The Martian a must-have on Blu-ray. It comes highly recommended.
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