The Martian

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Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of reading a new favorite book. I absolutely loved The Martian. I felt the experience was fantastic, and I quickly joined the cult of fans who fervently recommended the book, but refused to describe it if I thought there was any chance that person might liked it. Since I had a hard time imagining who would’t like the story, I wasn’t very limited.

Warning: The following is a spoiler-filled reaction to The Martian. If you haven’t seen it, you should.  Actually, you should consider reading the book too. How much do you know about the movie? Let me tell you about the 27 things that I loved about the book…

Ridley Scott directed an excellent cast in a great adaptation. I’ll do my best not to be that guy who constantly compares the book to the movie, but I couldn’t escape that context. I really enjoyed it, as did the group that saw it with me. Having already known the story, I was left with a few interesting reactions. Sure, I loved the cast, the visuals, the writing, but that isn’t what I walked away thinking about. 

First, Ridley Scott was’t just a great director, he’d been practicing for this. I saw The Martian in 3D based on the recommendation that it was barely noticeable, comparable to Prometheus. In a way, I wish I had’t heard that. Scott clearly applied the lessons learns and some of the designs from Prometheus for The Martian, and it shows. If you applied an orange coat of paint to the 2014 Alien semi-prequel, it would be hard to tell them apart. Suits and helmets are very similar (bubbles, lights, and all). The sweeping shots of the vehicles traversing the rocky ground are close matches. The storm at the beginning of the movie could have been pasted in as well. Of course, that isn’t the only sci-fi picture Scott has made, so it didn’t surprise me to see text flash across a screen in a manner similar to Alien. This may read like complaining, but I promise you it’s not. I just noticed the shortcuts used in the production. Just like Matt Damon likely didn’t plan on playing a similar role twice so quickly, I’m sure Scott was just applying what he had learned from preparing for his last sci-fi picture. Heck, perhaps that was a cost-saving mode at the studio. Who knows?

I really liked that this adaptation of The Martian focused on the human element of the story. The format of a book favors Mark Watney’s solitude and deep problem solving on Mars. The film succeeded by finding a better balance between Mars and Earth. It’s a great example of why these are two different media, and that they have different strengths. The film adaptation turns the story of The Martian into more than the tale of one man’s effort to survive. It rightfully refocuses the narrative into the effort of an entire planet to save one man. 

I also loved the final scene of Mark beginning as a teacher. I thought his monologue to the class encapsulated so much about what I enjoy about the story, and gave satisfying closure. It is the icing on the cake. It is a fitting ending to a movie families should be proud to show their kids. Sure, the language is a bit rough, but it’s exciting to see such an accessible movie about science and space exploration. I hope boys see this and dream about walking on Mars someday. I hope girls see this and dream about leading a mission in space. I hope students see a glimpse of the value a science or engineering education could provide.

I really liked The Martian. Our hero is aided by the best of mankind. Every character seems to be doing the best they can and making touch decisions. Its an accessible story where there is no villain, just impossible odds at survival.