The Martian (4K Blu-ray) (2015)

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Released 28-Apr-2016

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2015
Running Time 141:37
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
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 $49.95 Music Harry Gregson-Williams


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 7.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French dts 5.1
German dts 5.1
Italian dts 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 2160p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
French
German
Italian
Spanish
Danish
Dutch
Finnish
Norwegian
Swedish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

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 one of the first 4K Blu-ray titles to hit the shelves in Australia; it was part of Fox's debut line-up of Ultra HD discs alongside the likes of Kingsman, Life of Pi, The Maze Runner and X-Men: Days of Future Past. Debut titles often have their shortcomings (look at some early MPEG-2 Blu-ray titles), but The Martian is not marred by any noticeable shortcomings - it looks stunning in 4K, representing one of the best that this new format has to offer to date. According to Fox, they went the extra mile to create this UHD presentation, minting a fresh 4K digital intermediate at the request of Ridley Scott by going back to the source files. 2K digital effects shots were upconverted to 4K, while the live-action assets (which were captured at 5K) were downconvered to 4K. Certain FX shots were also reportedly re-composited at 4K. And, of course, a frame-by-frame High Dynamic Range grading was performed by the original colorist.

    Framed at the movie's original aspect ratio of 2.40:1, with HDR10 for compatible displays,  this 2160p ultra high definition presentation shows noticeable improvement over the 1080p Blu-ray in almost every department, making it the best way to view the movie on home video. Just in the opening scenes of the movie, the uptick in textures is instantly apparent. All the rock formations and mountains on Mars are razor-sharp, and every last detail on the spacesuits is brought out. All environments look lifelike in terms of detail and clarity, and textures on skin look exceptional, particularly in facial close-ups which bring out every pore. The HDR also gives the movie added visual pop, which is most evident in scenes set on the face of Mars - the reds just leap on the screen. Black levels are also deep, giving the presentation a nice amount of depth (even though there is no 3D option in 4K). Just look at the star fields in the space.

    One point of discussion about this UHD presentation is source noise, which is more apparent here than on the standard Blu-ray thanks to the increased resolution. Nevertheless, I did not find the noise distracting by any means, as it's not a fault of the encode, it doesn't look blocky, and I'll gladly take source noise over a smeary mess of digital noise reduction. Others are welcome to disagree of course, but Blu-ray should offer faithful, organic-looking presentations. Apart from the noise, I did not notice any encoding anomalies like banding, aliasing or crush. It's smooth sailing.

    Naturally, not every shot is flawless, as some of the smaller scenes within NASA lack the beautiful fine detail of the sequences set on Mars. And of course, the GoPro footage is far from perfect. But on the whole, this is a nice upgrade and a spot-on replication of the cinema experience. After witnessing The Martian in 4K, I cannot settle for anything less whenever I want to rewatch this new sci-fi classic, though again the lack of 3D is quite disappointing.


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

Audio

    The 4K Blu-ray features the same DTS-HD MA 7.1 track found on the 1080p Blu-ray. My thoughts remain unchanged:

    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.

    Audiofiles have cried foul about the lack of a Dolby Atmos track for this 4K Blu-ray. However, you can import the 4K extended edition, which does accommodate a Dolby Atmos mix.

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

Extras

    No extras appear on the 4K Blu-ray disc. However, the standard 1080p Blu-ray disc is also included in this set, which features a selection of extras.

R4 vs R1

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

    The local edition appears identical to all initial 4K Blu-ray releases overseas. However, the extended edition with further supplemental content and a Dolby Atmos soundtrack has hit 4K Blu-ray in major foreign markets like America and the United Kingdom, whereas no such release has hit local shelves. Therefore, I recommend importing the 4K extended edition from overseas, as it's by far the most definitive edition of the movie to date. Fear not, however, as 4K Blu-ray discs are not region locked, so import with confidence.

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.

    Fox's 4K Blu-ray is a real stunner, despite being part of Fox's debut run of UHD titles. The video quality cannot be faulted, while the audio remains excellent and impactful. However, the lack of extras, and of the extended edition, remains disappointing. Nevertheless, I'll give this one a mild recommendation on the strength of the movie and the presentation.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Friday, January 27, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDSamsung UBD-K8500 4K HDR Blu-Ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayLG OLED55C6T. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationSamsung Series 7 HT-J7750W
SpeakersSamsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up

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