Space is a pretty scary place to get stranded. Unlike landing on a desert island or in a forest, there's no way of flagging down anyone for help and there's often very little in the way of atmosphere. After Sandra Bullock's Gravity space walk and Matthew McConaughey's grand adventure in Interstellar, it's Matt Damon's turn to get lost in space next as he joins an expedition to Mars in Ridley Scott's next feature, The Martian.
Since Gravity only featured the kind of space travel technology that already exists, there was some debate over whether or not it was, strictly speaking, a science fiction film. The Martian is very nearly in the same position, since NASA intends to launch a manned mission to Mars by the 2030s. In this adaptation of the book by Andy Weir, Damon plays an astronaut called Mark Watney who finds himself stranded on Mars and forced to try and survive for long enough to be rescued.
The script for The Martian was written by Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods), who was originally attached to direct as well before other commitments drew him away. The cast of astronauts also includes Kate Mara (Fantastic Four), Michael Peña (Ant-Man), Jessica Chastain (Interstellar), Aksel Hennie (Hercules) and Sebastian Stan (Captain America: The Winter Soldier).
As for the characters that these people are playing, we'll go ahead and let Damon himself introduce them in a new viral teaser for The Martian, in which Mark wanders around the space shuttle with a camera and conducts slightly awkward interviews with his fellow astronauts. To add to the illusion of a space expedition being broadcast live, the video includes made-up tweets from the attentive audience who are watching the Ares 3's mission from their homes on Earth.
Two new official stills from The Martian also emerged on Reddit today, showing Jeff Daniels' character, the director of NASA, and poor Mark scribbling on the walls.
The Martian is inevitably going to end up getting compared to Gravity and Interstellar - Gravity because of the plot element of an astronaut being stranded, and Interstellar because of the striking similarities between the situations of Mark Watney and Damon's Interstellar character, Dr. Mann - but it's quite exciting to see so many high-profile movies being released that address the current realities and possible future of space travel.
Scott's last film, Exodus: Gods and Kings, proved to be pretty unpopular both with audiences and critics, but perhaps a return to the sci-fi genre will be what the director needs to get back on top. There's something intrinsically compelling about stories in which a lone person has to struggle against all the odds to survive, and with a script from a skilled writer like Goddard this could be one of the must-see films of the year.
The Martian arrives in theaters on November 25, 2015.