The Martian (Blu-ray) (2015)

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Released 10-Feb-2016

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Signal Acquired: Writing and Direction
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Occupy Mars: Casting and Costumes
Outtakes-Gag Reel
Featurette-Ares III: Refocused
Featurette-Ares III: Farewell
Additional Footage-The Right Stuff
Featurette-Ares: Our Greatest Adventure
Featurette-Leave Your Mark
Featurette-Bring Him Home
Theatrical Trailer
Gallery
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2015
Running Time 141:37
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Ridley Scott
Studio
Distributor
20th CENTURY FOX
Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Matt Damon
Jeff Daniels
Kristen Wiig
Mackenzie Davis
Jessica Chastain
Kate Mara
Donald Glover
Sean Bean
Michael Peña
Chiwetel Ejiofor
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $29.95 Music Harry Gregson-Williams


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 7.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
French
Portuguese
Chinese
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    In the hands of practically any other filmmaking team, 2015’s The Martian would have been an insufferably tedious, self-serious science fiction flick shamelessly manufactured for Oscars. But with a spirited screenplay by Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods, World War Z), and with veteran director Sir Ridley Scott at the helm, The Martian is an incredibly involving sci-fi drama endowed with a welcome sense of humanity. Based on Andy Weir’s 2011 novel of the same name, this film is a godsend, a mix of Cast Away and Apollo 13 which positively comes alive in the hands of Mr. Scott. Smartly-written, technically proficient, emotionally gripping and highly entertaining, it’s an unexpected late-year bright spot. There was a lot of anticipation leading up to The Martian’s release, but considering Scott’s recent track record, there was certainly some degree of apprehension mixed with the hope that the film would be a home run. Thankfully, it’s a masterpiece.

    Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is a botanist on a mission to Mars, working alongside an amiable crew consisting of Beth (Kate Mara), Chris (Sebastian Stan), Rick (Michael Peña), Alex (Aksel Hennie), and Commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain). When a violent storm hits and the team are forced to evacuate, Mark is hit by satellite debris and presumed dead, forcing Melissa to make the difficult decision to leave their fallen comrade behind. When the dust settles, Mark wakes up injured but alive, quickly realising that he’s hopelessly alone and might need to wait up to four years to be rescued. Determined to stay alive, Mark begins strategising and rationing, and even begins to grow crops on the desolate planet to enhance his food supply. Back on Earth, NASA eventually discover that Mark is alive, with chief Teddy (Jeff Daniels) working with top minds to establish communication with Mark and bring their boy home.

    The Martian is extraordinarily light on its feet, breezing through a brisk but effective opening segment concentrating on the storm, stranding Mark as quickly as possible in order for the film to get into its groove and focus on survival techniques. It’s gripping to watch Mark employ his ingenuity to ensure his survival, with vignettes alternating between the playful and the sombre, and Scott handles the tonal changes with astonishing ease. Perhaps more depth and background to Mark’s character would have been appreciated, but not a single frame of the film’s 140-minute runtime goes to waste. The movie constantly shifts focus between Mark, NASA and Mark’s crew who are still on their way home, yet Scott juggles the numerous subplots masterfully, maintaining momentum and a skilful pace from start to end.

    Perhaps the strongest aspect of Goddard’s adapted screenplay is its playful sense of humour. Most movies these days adhere to the patented Christopher Nolan approach, i.e. dour drama with serious actors standing around saying serious dialogue in a serious tone. Hell, a number of Scott’s recent movies have even fallen victim to this (Prometheus, The Counselor, Exodus). Standing in stark contrast to this, The Martian is often very amusing, but the comedy is neither forced nor farcical; rather, the laughs emerge organically from the character interactions, heightening that all-important sense of humanity. And since the movie concerns itself with dense science that the average film-goer will struggle to comprehend, the playfulness keeps us interested.

    Backed by a generous budget, The Martian is striking from a visual standpoint, with a mixture of sets, digital effects and location shooting to create the illusion of being on the surface of Mars. However, Scott’s direction is also non-intrusive and honest, letting the dramatic potential of the plot speak for itself, even creating a few montage sequences (backed by terrific musical choices) to effectively convey the passage of time. The final act, meanwhile, is a masterclass of photorealistic special effects and tremendous suspense, showing that the 77-year-old director can still create nail-biting set-pieces. There are moments of theatricality scattered throughout – most noticeably towards the picture’s dénouement – that stuffy critics may whinge about, but such moments work in this context. The Martian is a movie, after all, and the climax manages to be entertaining whilst simultaneously being intense and believable. It’s a tricky balancing act, yet Scott pulls it off competently.

    Damon deserves a lion’s share of the credit for making the movie work. Especially throughout The Martian’s opening act, large chunks amount to a one-man show, with Scott concentrating on Watney’s day-to-day routine intercut with his constant video logs. But while Damon deserves Oscar consideration, the rest of the ensemble also contribute in a major way - there’s not a dud performance in the bunch. Daniels emanates gravitas as the NASA chief, while the likes of Sean Bean and Kristen Wiig are unexpectedly brilliant in dramatic supporting roles as NASA employees. Bean in particular hasn’t been so alive in years. Meanwhile, Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) positively lights up the screen with a charismatic performance as the Mars mission director. Digging further into the cast, Chastain is predictably great, while Kate Mara puts in solid work to help us forget about Fantastic 4. Also noteworthy is Donald Glover in a small but pivotal role as someone who’s key to bringing Mark home safely.

    Armchair critics may be able to pick The Martian apart for scientific inaccuracies, but I am not a scientist. What matters is that this movie works on its own terms, as a low-key blockbuster of sorts with intelligence, heart and personality, and it’s not weighed down by pretensions or a sense of self-seriousness.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The Martian was shot digitally with a variety of cameras, from Red Epic Dragon to GoPro Hero4. Presented in 2.40:1 via the MPEG-4 AVC video codec, Ridley Scott’s latest opus looks truly stunning on Blu-ray, with a pristine transfer that faithfully replicates the cinema experience. Placed on a BD-50, Fox allots the movie a healthy bitrate, and the results are spectacular.

    The sheer clarity of the video is remarkable, allowing us to marvel at the intricate details on the space suits. Close-ups reveal plenty every pore and wrinkle on the actors’ faces, and the surface of Mars looks gorgeously expansive, with plenty of depth to the image, even in 2D. Sharpness is consistently above-average as well, and the video never falls victim to ringing or aliasing. The colour palette remains true to the images I recall seeing in the cinema, with Mars looking warm and orange, while the scenes set in space and on Earth possess their own distinctive look. No matter the environment or the lighting, the transfer never falters. It looks spectacular.

    I did detect some noise at times, but it’s refined rather than blocky. Added to this, the GoPro footage does suffer a tiny bit, but that’s to be expected, and all shortcomings are attributable to the source. This aside, everything else about the video soars, with deep blacks and stable colours. The Martian excels on disc, and it will be interesting to see if the impending Ultra HD Blu-ray release offers much of a discernible difference.

    A number of subtitle options are available, and the English track poses no issues.


Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Even better than the video on this release is the audio, with a flawless DTS-HD MA 7.1 track that effortlessly dazzles. It’s a reference-quality release which shows off the benefits of a home theatre set-up, with immersive surround activity, use of subwoofer, and noticeable separation and panning. Even in quieter moments, the track impresses thanks to the professional mixing.

    The Martian opens strong on the audio front; the storm on Mars engages every surround channel, creating the desired illusion that you are there. Dialogue is consistently strong, and it’s well-mixed to ensure that it’s always comprehendible and never overwhelmed by other sound effects or music. It’s all crisp and clean, too, with no muffling or drop-outs. Characters appearing via webcam do sound slightly distorted, but that’s by design of course, and the dialogue is still easy to understand.

    Harry Gregson-Williams’ original score is effective as well, while the cornucopia of songs (like David Bowie’s “Starman” and the various disco tracks) sound marvellous in stereo. There are simply no flaws with this exceptional audio track.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Here we have a very, very disappointing slate of extras. Even the most mediocre Ridley Scott movies like Exodus and The Counselor have received lavish Blu-ray releases with three-hour documentaries. But his best movie in over a decade gets barely anything.

Signal Acquired: Writing and Direction (HD; 9:36)

    A brief but interesting overview of the genesis of the project. Andy Weir, Ridley Scott and Matt Damon all chime in, with Weir even talking about his initial meeting with Drew Goddard about turning the novella into a motion picture.

Occupy Mars: Casting and Costumes (HD; 14:13)

    This next featurette initially covers the design of the costumes (the filmmakers even talked to NASA), before discussing the movie’s sizable ensemble cast. The key players all get a look-in, and there are plenty of interviews with cast and crew, intercut with mountains of insightful behind-the-scenes footage. Good stuff.

Gag Reel (HD; 7:33)

    Out of all the supplements on this Blu-ray, this is what excited me the most. And luckily, it did not disappoint. Over seven minutes of outtakes are included here, with the actors mucking up and generally goofing around. I laughed heartily.

Ares III: Refocused (HD; 17:18)

    Rather than another behind-the-scenes featurette, this particular extra (the longest on the disc) is actually a faux documentary which serves as an extension of the movie. The likes of Sean Bean and Jeff Daniels play their respective roles in interviews talking about the rescue of Mark Watney. The doc purports to have been made seven years after Watney’s rescue, and reveals what some of the characters went on to do after leaving NASA.

Ares III: Farewell (HD; 3:35)

    Another in-movie segment, this is day-in-the-life footage of the crew of the Ares, with Watney introducing his team via a live webcam. This is a fun watch, with snide little tweets appearing at the bottom, and little “Crew Facts” popping up throughout.

The Right Stuff (HD; 3:20)

    More faux “real” footage, this involves Watney and other crew members being interviewed by a NASA psychologist after ten days in isolation. This could have probably wound up in the film somehow, perhaps even as an end credits thing. Entertaining stuff.

Ares: Our Greatest Adventure (HD; 3:39)

    Yep, another faux documentary. This short segment features well-known astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who talks about the Ares mission to Mars, the history of Mars voyages, and the logistics of such a trip. Credit where credit is due: The science sounds believable. But apparently Tyson doesn’t age much between now and 2030.

Leave Your Mark (HD; 1:03)

    This next piece is a faux commercial for Under Armour featuring Watney wearing their gear and working out, intercut with footage of his space voyage. Did not expect to find this on the disc.

Bring Him Home (HD; 1:34)

    And just in case we haven’t had enough faux in-movie pieces, we have a montage depicting the entire world showing support for Watney’s ordeal.

Theatrical Trailer (HD; 2:55)

    Here we have the theatrical trailer. It does arguably show a bit too much.

Production Art Gallery (HD)

    There are three galleries here: “Earth,” “Hermes,” and “Mars.” This is all production artwork with no stills or behind-the-scenes photo. You can view the galleries individually or via a “Play All,” and you can opt for either manual navigation or automated slideshow.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    All editions are identical worldwide in terms of extras.

Summary

    I love The Martian. It's a science fiction drama with humanity, great actors and unforced comedy on top of solid production values and outstanding special effects. It's one of my favourite movies of 2015, and it absolutely needs to be seen.

    Unfortunately, Fox's Blu-ray does not do justice to the movie. Oh sure, the video & audio presentation is flawless, but there are so little extras here that somebody should be fired. One supposes that Fox rushed this disc out in time for the Oscars to keep it in the minds of the public, and will probably release a director's cut with hours of special features somewhere down the line. I really hope it does happen, because as it is, this disc is hard to recommend, except at sale price.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Saturday, February 13, 2016
Review Equipment
DVDPlayStation 4, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42LW6500. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationLG BH7520TW
SpeakersLG Tall Boy speakers, 5.1 set-up, 180W

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