One of the most intriguing projects in upcoming sci-fi cinema is 20th Century Fox’s adaptation of Andy Weir’s excellent debut novel The Martian. Last year the film landed a solid director in Cabin in the Woods helmer Drew Goddard, though there was radio silence on the project after that. Now that Goddard is following his Cabin co-writer Joss Whedon’s footsteps into the world of comic book movies—he’s been hired to direct a Sinister-Six movie—Fox has decided not to wait around and the two have parted ways. And while that’s certainly a bummer, the good news is Matt Damon is reportedly in talks to go to Mars for the project. That sounds like a fair trade to me, as Damon has some experience with leaving the planet on the big screen.
News of Damon’s involvement comes from TheWrap, which also says that Fox will be looking for a director that Damon is comfortable working with. Considering the Oscar winner has worked with directors all over the cinematic spectrum, there’s no discernible shortlist of potential filmmakers who could step on board here. I think if frequent Damon collaborator Steven Soderbergh came out of his vague retirement for anything, it should be for a project that could easily be described as “Sassy MacGyver in space.”
Weir originally put The Martian online for free via his Galactanet website (where you can read more of his stellar work for no charge), and it was later picked up and published by Random House imprint Crown this past February. The novel, which is mostly told in first-person, starts off with the crew of the Ares 3 being forced to prematurely leave the Martian surface, abandoning botanist Mark Watney, who is thought to be dead. Thanks to Weir’s encyclopedic knowledge, Mark becomes one of the most amusingly resourceful characters in fiction, not only finding a way to sustain his existence alone on a distant planet, but also becoming the first person in history to explore it at length.
The story is a constant thrill ride, as Mark’s life is anything but easy and relaxing. I can’t recall if the book ever gave Mark’s age, but the slangy inner monologues in his mission updates peg him as at least a decade younger than Damon, if not more, but a movie version wouldn’t spend so much time with those details. This won’t be anything like Gravity, either, in case you think Damon will just be a male version of Sandra Bullock’s character. This is more of a long-term survival story, with Mark’s cunning wiles replacing Bullock’s helpless whimpers.
Check out a trailer for the book below.
Damon definitely needs to take this. He’s had a strong run at sci-fi in the last few years, legitimizing fantastical tales like The Adjustment Bureau and Elysium. He’ll be seen later this year in Terry Gilliam’s colorful quirkfest The Zero Theorem and Christopher Nolan’s space thriller Interstellar. Goddard, meanwhile, will be taking on Marvel’s Daredevil series for Netflix, as well as Sony’s Sinister Six, the villain-filled spinoff of The Amazing Spider-Man franchise. Who do you guys think should replace Goddard?