Movie Review: The Martian

Sierra Block Gorman,’16

The Martian’s premise is simple – what if someone accidentally got left on Mars? What would happen to them? Could they survive? We’ve seen survival stories before, everything from Lost to Cast Away, but those are usually in a place with some natural resources, or where the person could theoretically find their way home, or, you know, on Earth at least. Not this one.

Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon), is a botanist, engineer, and disco‐hating nerd, who must survive on a frigid desert planet where literally nothing grows for an indefinite amount of time. The catch is he’s stuck in a habitat built to last a month with only enough food to last a couple hundred days, assuming nothing blows him up in the meantime. That is a big assumption, since there are so many things that could kill him: Running out of food, a malfunction in any of the machines, a tear in his habitat, the intense dust storms, a tiny nuclear reactor that he carries around sometimes, burning rocket fuel, the atmosphere or lack thereof. Pretty much everything around him is in a constant state of “could kill you any minute now.”

Luckily, Watney is a talented and resourceful scientist, who swiftly proclaims that he shall “Science the shit of out this.” His ingenuity is only made more impressive by the fact that all the science is almost completely accurate, having been fact‐checked by respected scientists in several fields. If you want to go to a sci‐fi movie without your scientist friend constantly complaining about scientific inaccuracies, The Martian is for you. Not all of the nitty‐gritty technical details are explained in the movie, so don’t worry about things getting too dry or esoteric, but the realism really adds to the story, making it all the more believable. If you do want more of the technical details, read the original book or some of the interviews with the author, Andy Weir.

The movie is split into 3 points of view, Watney on Mars, the rest of the Ares III crew on the Hermes, a ship taking them back to Earth without their abandoned teammate, and the people back on Earth, mostly the crew working at NASA who are in charge of the mission. This allows the viewer to get several perspectives and emphasizes a major theme in the story; that when someone is in peril, trying to survive against all odds, humanity will band together to help them. The people at NASA work frantically at all hours to try and find a way home for Watney after discovering he’s alive, and the crew on the Hermes risk their lives to go back for him. Watney faces countless dangers and takes risks to get back to the people he loves and make everyone’s efforts worth it.

One might imagine that this movie is all angst and suspense, but that isn’t true. It’s only half angst and suspense. Damon injects Watney with a sort of irreverent, nerdy humor that seems totally inappropriate for the situation, but helps both him and us cope with the seemingly endless setbacks and impossible odds. It adds the spark of hope and lightness; despite the fact that all his friends left him alone on a planet more than 225 million km from home with no ride back to Earth, Watney is still making logs and cracking jokes and listening to terrible, wonderful 70’s music like he will survive. Speaking of which, the soundtrack includes classics like “Turn the Beat Around,” “Hot Stuff,” “Starman,” and “I Will Survive.” Appropriate.

If you like thrilling, romantic, tragic movies about disasters in space, go see Gravity or something. If you like suspenseful, touching, funny, exciting science fiction movies about space travel, planetary science, the inadvertent colonization of Mars, a steely‐eyed missile man, potato farming, space pirates, copious use of duct tape, and vloggers in space, see The Martian.

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