Back in March of 2014, I finished reading and blogged about Andy Weir’s book, The Martian. In the last line of that review I wrote, “now if only someone would pick this (the book) up and make a movie.” It wasn’t long after that it was announced that there was indeed going to be a film made from one of the best SciFi novels I have ever read.
Now I am not going to say that the film based on the book that I saw this past weekend is the best SciFi film I have ever seen, but I will say that it would be very near the top, that is if I were given to making lists, which I usually do not. Nevertheless, I found The Martian appealed to me on many levels.
The film follows quite faithfully to the events depicted in the book. While exploring Mars, a potentially dangerous dust storm is found to be headed toward the Ares III landing site. After a short period of deliberation, the mission commander decides that conditions warrant scrubbing the mission and getting off of the surface. The storm hits full force as the astronauts head back to their launch and ascent vehicle and astronaut Mark Watney is hit by a piece of debris that is dislodged from the habitat. Watney is carried away by the impact and the wind and there is a brief effort at a search, but with the urgent situation, the rest of the crew must lift off before they are all stranded. They give Watney up for dead.
Watney is most certainly not dead, but is injured by the debris that has hit him. Now, for the lone astronaut, it becomes a game of survival. After at first realizing that he is as good as dead, he later decides that he is not going to give up without a fight. He uses his wits and his knowledge of science to set himself up to survive. Without communications capabilities, he has to survive four years until the Aries IV mission arrives.
Back on Earth, a person in Mission Control sees pictures of the Aries III site taken by an orbiting satellite and notices that equipment has been moved around and it is determined that Watney must still be alive. A way to communicate is found and options for rescue are considered. It is finally determined that the transport vehicle that is returning to earth with the rest of the crew can be sent back to Mars on a free return trajectory using the Earth as a gravity assist and a resupply mission is launched.
Watney is rescued and returns to Earth to become an instructor for future astronauts.
There is much in this film that appeals to me. One of the first things that comes to mind is the performance of Matt Damon as Watney. He plays the thinking scientist/astronaut very well. Much of this is most likely thanks to Ridley Scott who seems to understand what an astronaut would do in a hopeless situation.
That leads me to the story itself. While well written by the author, a lot of credit has to be given to the screenwriters who masterfully preserved the spirit of Andy Weir's book as well as the most essential story elements. There are a few things in the book that were not included in the film, but it doesn't diminish the story whatsoever. I have to admit that even though I knew that everything was going to be okay, I still felt tense at several points during the film. Having read the book should not diminish your viewing experience.
The visuals were also very stunning. I seriously believed that the set that the movie was filmed on could have been the planet Mars. The filming for the Martian landscape took place in the Jordanian desert that gave an incredible impression of what I would imagine it would actually look like.
Be warned though, there is one sequence in the film that might be disturbing to some audience members. It had me curling my toes in sympathetic pain as I watched it. Right after Watney wakes up, he has to make his way back to the habitat and treat his own wound from being struck by the communications dish. This scene is quite graphic and bloody as he cleans his wound and staples it closed.
On the other hand, The Martian also has a good sense of humor. In their haste to leave the surface of Mars, all of Watney's colleagues are forced to leave things behind. One item was the mission commander's laptop which was loaded with 1970's Disco music. Watney made several references to his hatred for this genre of music which broke the tension and added some appropriate comic relief. There were also several exchanges between characters in the film that were quite humorous and added to the overall realistic feel of the movie.
All in all, everything about this film was remarkable and is a must see movie, especially for fans of the manned space program. It seems like it would quite plausible that something like this might happen. I hear many fellow SciFi fans complain often that everything we are currently getting from Hollywood is either a prequel, sequel, reboot, or remake, so it is important that we send a message to Hollywood that we want more original and new material. So get out there and see The Martian in theaters! You will not be disappointed.
Well, there it is...