Right up there with Mad Max: Fury Road in the pantheon of 4K landmarks, The Martian has become a standard bearer for ultra high definition and high dynamic range. If you want to really enjoy what your home cinema setup has to offer, The Martian on 4K UHD Blu-ray with HDR is an obligatory pick.
Directed by Ridley Scott and released in 2015, The Martian stars Matt Damon as Mark Watney, a NASA botanist from Chicago who finds himself stranded on Mars. As the rest of his team (headed by Jessica Chastain) was forced to evacuate back to Earth, Watney remains behind on Mars by accident. He has to relay on whatever technology, ingenuity, and luck he can muster to survive several years on a planet not exactly optimized for human life.
While of course some of the science in The Martian has been “flexed” to allow for what’s essentially a science fiction story, the movie remains somewhat faithful to the 2011 Andy Weir novel it’s based on.
And in any case, you have to watch this one simply for the ridiculously well-produced 4K UHD Blu-ray. The disc was released in February 2016 and quickly became an industry-wide demo for showcasing 4K and HDR. The audiovisual quality of this release remains among the best ever in the home video market, even over four years later.
Just like the novel, the movie shifts routinely between locations. We have Watney struggling to survive on dusty Mars. Those scenes feature an orange-dominated palette with numerous shades and a strong contrast between the Martian surface and the nearly airless sky above. The 4K UHD HDR edition makes every rock and background hill pop out with convincing detail. Filmed in Jordan, The Martian does an excellent job making you believe it’s actually taking place on Mars.
Also stars of the show are the various pieces of technology Watney uses. There’s the habitat (hab), the rover, the launcher, solar panels, hothouse…and many more. The production crew went full on in imbuing each of these with countless details that make the technology appear used, lived in, and realistic. Only the 4K HDR disc does justice to the hard work that went into each set and prop.
While contrasting orange filters with blue filters isn’t exactly a novel trick, The Martian does it very well. As Mark Watney survives on Mars, the story cuts to scenes set on Earth, mostly at NASA HQ and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The look and feel here manifest mostly as human but more calculated, with an almost clinical vibe. It’s clear the filmmakers wanted a blue-infused look to make sure we get that Earth is the blue planet Watney yearns to go back to. This works very well, and looks even better.
Arguably The Martian’s most beautiful scenes and most glorious use of HDR enter in sequences focused on the Ares. That’s the mothership carrying Watney’s crewmates back to Earth. Thanks to a combination of superb set building and beautiful CG art, the Ares and space look spectacular and maybe even steal the show. While the Mars scenes are gorgeous in their own right, the space sections contain a tremendous amount of detail you’ll have to pause play to appreciate. If you love science and science fiction and have an affinity for space travel, the 4K UHD edition of The Martian will have you gasping with wonder.
Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski and the Blu-ray mastering team have all done praise-worthy work. If you haven’t already, you simply must get your hands on The Martian on 4K UHD Blu-ray with HDR. The film definitely sticks the landing for those still not sure whether 4K and HDR make a difference.