“The Martian” is as scientifically sound as the Mars survival manual it was based on—the only inaccuracy in both being that NASA receives enough money to save the main character.
Thankfully Ridley Scott was able to take the husk of Andy Weir’s work and give it a heart. Similar to other popular sci-fi films like “Interstellar” and “Gravity,” “The Martian” takes the themes of human drama, like love and survival, and brings them into space. What sets this movie apart, however, is its function as a borderline workplace comedy; had it been shot in the style of “Parks and Recreation,” it would have been just as effective as a sci-fi thriller, if not funnier.
In a futuristic society where space travel is apparently well-funded and commonplace, the sense of humor that most of the movie’s characters have comes as an extra surprise, considering how serious their work is and how stressful the situations are. Mark Watney—botanist, mechanical engineer, self-proclaimed “space pirate”—is the best example of this. He is collecting samples with his crew on Mars when a dust storm forces them to abandon their mission. As they race back to the shuttle, a chunk of debris pierces Watney’s suit, and the rest of the crew, believing him to be dead, leave without Watney.
Fortunately Watney survives. Unfortunately he is marooned on Mars and realizes he will have to “science the shit out of this.”
From there on out, Watney uses his skills as a botanist and engineer to survive in creative ways, such as growing potatoes with fertilizer made of his own waste and creating a plutonium car battery, all while keeping a great sense of humor and optimism about him. I think this is what keeps a long movie about a man stranded on a desolate planet from becoming too dull. Although I call it desolate for argument’s sake, the landscape shots of Mars in the movie are actually quite beautiful.
The movie becomes more dramatic as the people at NASA come in contact with Watney and try to bring him back to Earth. Matt Damon does a fantastic job acting out the ups and downs of Watney’s experience. In his most emotionally-charged scene, Watney decides that he does not mind if he dies because he will at least be “dying for something big and beautiful and greater than [himself].” Damon is supported by a crew of other top actors like Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean and many more. While this movie is not full of fast-paced action like most featured films, the actors energize each scene on their own through witty, well-written dialogue and the internal and external struggles they portray.
If this truly doesn’t sound like a movie you’d like to see, at least go for the sweet 80s disco soundtrack—the only music Watney has to play on Mars—because even if your taste in music is bad enough to enjoy disco, you’ll still wind up loving “The Martian.”
Film: “The Martian”
Director: Ridley Scott
Release date: Oct. 2