This year’s Golden Globe winner for Best Comedy or Musical, The Martian is one of the best in Fox’s initial wave of UHD Blu-ray titles, showcasing what the new format can do for a film originally mastered in 2K for theatrical release.
The Production: 4.5/5
Part rescue story, part character study, Ridley Scott’s The Martian is one of the biggest surprises of last year, garnering major Golden Globe and Oscar nominations that included Best Actor for Matt Damon and Best Picture. During an exploration to Mars, the crew of Ares III are forced to make an emergency evacuation due to a heavy sand storm headed their way. A freak accident occurs during the escape, stranding Mark Watney (Matt Damon) on the planet as the crew leaves the planet. Believed to be dead, NASA holds a funeral and the nation observes a day of mourning for Watney. In a bizarre set of circumstances, Watney manages to survive and make his way back to the living quarters, and must come up with a solution to keep himself alive by finding a way to stretch the remaining food and water supply until either the next mission crew arrives on the planet and/or can somehow get NASA’s attention that he’s alive and well.
For much of The Martian, the film is a one-man show for star Matt Damon, as he records a video diary using the many GoPros and webcams that were left behind. Soon, NASA notices movements of the rover on the planet, leading them to believe that just maybe Watney survived. But Director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) doesn’t want to jump the gun, fearing budget cuts to future missions or political fallout for leaving a man behind, and prefers to take a more cautionary approach, yet Mitch Henderson (Sean Bean) thinks the world should know Watney’s alive and that NASA should do anything and everything to get their man home. Terrific supporting performances by Kristen Wiig and Chiwetel Ejiofor round out the cast as the team responsible for getting Watney home. For a more detailed review of the film, please read Matt Hough’s review of the Blu-ray release.
3D Rating: NA
The Martian is the newest title in the first wave of UHD Blu-ray discs from Fox, having been released on Blu-ray just one month prior. There have been a lot of questions on this forum and many others regarding how most of the movies announced for this new format by all four studios (Fox, Warner, Lionsgate, Sony) had their DI completed in 2K and how they would look when upscaled to 2160p by the studio. Before I delve into my observations, it should be noted that I reviewed this disc on what is currently the only available UHD Blu-ray player on the market, the Samsung UBD-K8500, connecting the main HDMI output to an LG 65UF8500 (which unfortunately does not support high dynamic range or HDR10) and the secondary HDMI output to a Marantz SR5008 receiver for lossless audio decoding. That being said, the UHD Blu-ray is a vast improvement over the previous Blu-ray release (which my colleague Matt Hough gave a 5 out of 5 for video). Colors appear more natural and solid, without any banding or bleeding. As one would expect, detail also excels, particularly the rocks and grains of sand in the Martian landscapes which by comparison looked almost smeared on the Blu-ray. To a lesser degree, contrast was also improved with deeper blacks and an overall brighter picture without appearing washed out.
The UHD Blu-ray contains the same DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track as the Blu-ray release. I lowered my score a half point because the film was released to theaters in Dolby Atmos, which was skipped over on both the Blu-ray and UHD editions in favor the DTS-HD MA 7.1 track.
Special Features: 4.5/5
All of the special features can be found on the Blu-ray disc.
Signal Acquired: Writing and Direction (1080p; 9:36)
Occupy Mars: Casting and Costumes (1080p; 14:13)
Gag Reel (1080p; 7:33
Ares III: Refocused (1080p; 17:18)
In World Vignettes (1080p): Ares III: Farewell (3:55), The Right Stuff (3:20), Ares: Our Greatest Adventure (3:39), Leave Your Mark (1:03), and Bring Him Home (1:34).
Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 2:55)
Digital HD Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy through Ultraviolet or iTunes.
Thankfully, Fox gave collectors a heads up that a UHD Blu-ray release would follow just a few weeks after the DVD and Blu-ray release. While the improvement in picture quality is not on the same scale as when we moved from VHS to DVD, it’s about on par with what we saw going from DVD to Blu-ray (but without the obvious edge enhancement and other digital manipulation headaches we encountered with many titles when that format launched). If you’re considering a UHD Blu-ray player and didn’t pick up the 2D Blu-ray of The Martian, then this would be the recommended edition to purchase.