Having released the home video version of Ridley Scott’s The Martian a mere five months ago, Twentieth Century Fox now double dips the title with an extended edition offering ten minutes of additional footage added to the film, a commentary featuring the director, the original novelist, and the screenwriter who adapted his work, and several more extensive making-of featurettes giving the film’s fans a greater look behind the curtain of the film’s production.
The Production: 4.5/5
Having released the home video version of Ridley Scott’s The Martian a mere five months ago, Twentieth Century Fox now double dips the title with an extended edition offering ten minutes of additional footage added to the film, a commentary featuring the director, the original novelist, and the screenwriter who adapted his work, and several more extensive making-of featurettes giving the film’s fans a greater look behind the curtain of the film’s production. Is it worth plunking down another fee for a few additional minutes and some admittedly informative information about the film’s genesis? That’s up to each individual, of course, though, truth to tell, the additional minutes of screen time are occasionally noticeable but do not negatively impact the film’s flow (the film remains one of the best science fiction films of recent memory) even if the new documentaries and, to a lesser extent, the commentary are most welcome accessories to the original Blu-ray release.
When a violent surface storm on Mars carries away one of the Ares III mission crew members and makes it necessary to cut short the mission and leave the planet, Commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) and four other crew members regretfully must leave the Red Planet without being able to bring back the body of presumed dead Mark Watney (Matt Damon) for burial. Only Mark isn’t dead, and when he awakens and realizes he’s on his own until those back on Earth can realize he’s alive, he sets out to jerry rig everything that was left behind in order to keep himself alive and healthy hoping a rescue mission of some kind can be launched for him. Back at home, however, there are differing opinions about what must be done once Mark’s status is revealed. NASA director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) always walks a fine line not wanting to jeopardize any future funding by admitting mistakes were made while aeronautics expert Mitch Henderson (Sean Bean) wants to move heaven and Earth to get Mark back no matter the cost or embarrassment to the agency. Associate director Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) plays the go-between for these two very different and highly volatile personalities.
Based on the novel by Andy Weir, Drew Goddard’s intricate screenplay walks a fine line between activities on Mars with Mark, in space with the crew of the Ares III space mission, and those back on Earth trying mightily to come up with a viable plan to either rescue him or get supplies to him so he can survive his ordeal with minimal discomfort. The trouble, of course, is that the universe doesn’t want to cooperate. For every solution that’s found on Mars or on Earth, another problem caused sometimes by freak occurrences and other times by natural conditions simply throw a wrench in any workable solutions making new plans mandatory. For the first hour of the film, Matt Damon pretty much has himself a one-man show as the audience is drawn increasingly into his corner as his ingeniousness in the face of overwhelming odds and seemingly impossible situations comes to the fore and draws him instantly into our hearts. He’s aided in no small way through Ridley Scott’s incisive direction preventing visual monotony from setting in by allowing us to view Mark through a variety of camera devices (helmet cam, video monitors, computer cameras, dashboard monitors) along with, of course, conventional photography. And the scenes with the crew on board the Hermes are also beautifully photographed in their weightless stages sailing and gliding through corridors of their expansive ship. Though we know Mars is mostly a CGI world as created for the film (along with some location photography in Jordan), it certainly has the look and feel of the real place with the vistas of red dust and rocky formations that seem real enough to touch. Though original author Andy Weir prides himself on the mostly fact-based nature of the science contained in his story, the final rescue attempt does seem to employ more than a bit of dramatic license; it makes for a rousing final mission unquestionably, and the world-joined interest in his rescue is but one of the film’s most rousing attributes. The footage which has been added to the original theatrical version is seamless and non-disruptive to the ebb and flow of the movie’s comedic and dramatic events.
Matt Damon makes a perfect everyman for the film, his appealing, occasionally nerdy botanist instantly likable and accessible as he comments on his fellow crewmates’ taste in music and entertainment and keeps himself occupied and entertained as best he can. Humorless Jeff Daniels in his on-going battles with Sean Bean, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and media specialist Kristen Wiig probably has the next biggest role in the film with his adversaries giving equally worthy performances opposite him. Jessica Chastain is solid as a rock as the mission captain while crew members Michael Peña, Sebastian Stan, Kate Mara, and Aksel Hennie all show grace under pressure without ever letting the proceedings get too serious. In smaller roles, Benedict Wong and Donald Glover as engineers tasked with finding solutions offer excellent portrayals in explaining the science without bogging the film down in too much technical jargon (Glover’s show-and-tell explanation of his solution is one of the most delightful sequences in the film’s second half).
3D Rating: NA
The viewer is allowed to choose the original theatrical cut (PG-13) or the unrated extended edition from the main menu. The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 is faithfully presented in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is never a problem even with the many CG-generated backgrounds present in the film, and color is consistently solid and wonderfully realistic in terms of skin tones. Contrast has been nicely maintained at constant levels while black levels can be very rich and impressively deep. The movie has been divided into 32 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 reference quality sound mix delivers on all counts: aggressive when it needs to be with split atmospheric effects during storms and explosions and blastoffs and quieter but no less appealing during less intense sequences. Harry Gregson-Williams’ background score and a succession of disco hits get a wonderful spread through the front and rear channels. Dialogue has been expertly recorded and comes clearly and distinctly through the center channel. There is also a descriptive audio track offered in Dolby Digital 5.1.
Special Features: 5/5
Audio Commentary: director Ridley Scott talks solo with inserted commentary by original author Andy Weir and screenwriter/producer Drew Goddard. While Scott offers some intriguing anecdotes, much of his commentary describes what we’re seeing on screen. The comments by Weir and Goddard with their easy camaraderie and ebullient senses of humor are more entertaining.
The other bonus material is contained on a separate Blu-ray disc.
Deleted Scenes (4:06, HD): three scenes may be viewed separately or in montage.
The Long Way Home: Making The Martian (1:19:21, HD): an extensive making-of documentary taking us from the conception of the original novel through post production work before release. Along the way are comments from director Ridley Scott, producers Aditya Sood and Simon Kinberg, writer/producer Mark Goddard, novelist Andy Weir, production designer Arthur Max, director of photography Dariusz Wolski, costume designer Janty Yates, film editor Pietro Scalia, visual effects supervisor Richard Stammers, stunt coordinator Rob Inch, composer Harry Gregson-Williams, NASA official James Green, and actors Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Dare Mighty Things: NASA’s Journey to Mars (14:47, HD): several NASA officials including James Green, Ellen Stofan, and Charles Bolden discuss the three stages of NASA preparations currently underway for a manned landing on the planet in the late 2030s.
Journey to Mars 101 (2:02:18, HD): three panel discussions followed by question and answer sessions about preparations for Mars missions (which may be viewed together or separately), two featuring NASA officials and the third featuring Ridley Scott, Andy Weir, and Drew Goddard.
Ridley Scott Comments (1:31, HD): the director speaks briefly on the importance of planning for interplanetary space travel.
Gag Reel (7:33, HD)
In World Vignettes (HD): five in-character short pieces featuring the characters in additional scenes that could have been (but never were) a part of the movie.
- Ares III: Farewell (3:35): Mark Watney gives a tour of the spacecraft to a TV audience before the launch.
- The Right Stuff (3:20): the crew gives brief soundbites after they return home.
- Ares: Our Greatest Adventure (3:39): Neil Degrasse Tyson introduces his TV audience to the plans for the Ares mission before the launch.
- Leave Your Mark (1:03): a recruitment promo for astronaut training.
- Bring Him Home (1:34): a news piece on the rescue mission which is uniting the world.
Production Gallery: ninety-seven art images picturing scenes on Earth, on Mars, and in the Hermes.
Theatrical Trailer (11:09, HD): four trailers may be watched in montage or separately.
Digital Copy/Ultraviolet: code sheet enclosed in the case.
For those who are real fans of the movie, the several hours of bonus features alone available on this extended edition of The Martian are more than enough reason for double dipping on this release. The footage added to the theatrical release is neither helpful nor hurtful with the viewing experience, so it will come down to how much behind-the-scenes information one is interested in acquiring in learning about the production of this most enjoyable movie. For those who haven’t yet indulged in the film, this is a must buy!
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