Last night I had the pleasure of watching the movie, The Martian, and I have to say that I really loved it! There was plenty of hype surrounding the movie- especially with the announcement that NASA scientists had found evidence of running water on Mars three days prior. But I was pleasantly surprised at just how good it was.
The Martian- directed by Ridley Scott- is based off a novel by Andy Weir, first published in 2011, and it’s one I hadn’t read yet. As an avid science fiction fan, I’ve always been fascinated by Mars, scooping up as many related novels as I could. Some of my favorites have been Mars and Return to Mars by Ben Bova, and Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. And there have been plenty of movies about Mars, including Total Recall (1990 & 2012), Mission to Mars (2000), John Carter (2012), Last Days on Mars (2013) and Flight to Mars (1951)- just to name a few. But The Martian now stands atop as my new favorite.
And there’s good reason why it’s at the top. First, the science behind it was top-rate. NASA partnered with 20th Century Fox to pull this off, and it was fascinating. The movie is about survival; astronaut Mark Watney- played by actor Matt Damon, is thought to be killed during a ferocious storm. He’s left behind as his crewmates escape and return to earth. Once Watney regains consciousness, he must recover from his wounds, overcome impending doom, and find a way to survive, knowing there won’t be another mission to the Red Planet for nearly five years (if it’s not cancelled or delayed).
It’s fun to watch how he improvises and makes due with the few resources available, modifying his equipment, and going to great lengths to contact earth. He’s forced to make several long journeys across the Martian landscape, battling the planet’s unforgiving climate, and must deal with unexpected events that devastate his hope for survival.
“Riveting… A tightly constructed and completely believable story of a man’s ingenuity and strength in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.” – Booklist
Matt Damon does an excellent job in the lead role. The movie is highly entertaining, filled with gripping suspense and fitting action. The script was well written, advancing the storyline, capturing interest, and provided good, timely humor. There’s some adult language that doesn’t detract from the movie, and a nude shot of Matt Damon’s backside as he exits the shower, but otherwise there’s little to find objectionable.
There’s a certain kind of beauty to be found on a desolate planet like Mars; from the red desert landscape and rocky hills and outcrops to meteor craters and other mysterious features, the movie inspires the imagination.
Part of NASA’s collaboration included guidance on production design, technical assistance, and preparation for the cast and crew. Some of the real-world technology used in the movie includes the habitation module, farming for crops, using a water recovery system (allowing astronauts to recycle wastewater and urine), an oxygen generation system for turning carbon dioxide into a supply of oxygen, and space suits designed for durability, comfort and flexibility. The rover vehicle, solar panels, ion propulsion and thermoelectric generators were also real technology at work in the movie.
Another cool thing about the movie is that it promotes interest in space travel, which, in turn, becomes an investment that benefits our life on earth. I was also pleased that there were no unnecessary hidden agendas in the movie that could distract. The true scientific rigor and storyline of survival dominated, and I think that’s what made it so powerful for me.
Even as I exited the movie, it was cool to hear other movie-goers raving about how authentic and entertaining it was. My wife, who’s really not into science fiction at all, was also excited about how much she enjoyed it. This movie looks like a real hit, and I hope that continues to be the case.