I'm a freelance writer living on the Sunshine Coast.
Published February 24th 2016
In The Name Of Science
The Martian (2015) is a science-fiction space movie starring Matt Damon and is based on a novel by Andy Weir. The film is set in the not too distant future and the use of a chronological diary format adds to the realism. Although the casting is great, no one actor really stood out for me. The use of humour also makes it an enjoyable film, with maths and science as the ultimate heroes.
The movie opens on a team of astronauts working on the Ares III mission on Mars collecting samples and data when a powerful storm catches them by surprise. An emergency take-off is scheduled. Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) is a botanist and is injured after being hit by flying debris during the storm. Jessica, the mission commander, presumes he is dead and does not recover his body. The remainder of the film deals with how he survives against all odds and gets back to Earth.
The stark contrast between error vs success is apparent throughout the film. Both Mark Watney and NASA experience many instances of error and success during experiments and solving problems. At the same time there is the similarity between the technical error of machinery and the human error made because of poor decision-making. For example, to save time, NASA cancels final inspections before take-off with disastrous results.
The most dominant theme in the whole movie is that of science itself. Mark even makes science a verb when he says: "I'm gonna have to science the shit out of this." As Mark solves technical problem after technical problem, there is no doubting that Mark's science ability is pure genius. But it is exactly this genius ability which ultimately helps him to survive his ordeal on Mars. Mark Watney's strong will to survive reveals a character who is incredibly brave, extremely capable, and truly brilliant. He is successful because he is able to think outside the square and also takes calculated risks. He is definitely an opportunist and at one point in the film Mark refers to himself as a "space pirate."
Once NASA is able to communicate with Mark, they are able to offer him the outside help he needs. The China space team also provide a way to ensure a faster rescue. This aspect of the film, which showcases how international agencies can work together as a team is very inspiring especially in the face of Mark's impending doom. The viewer is plunged headfirst into Mark's hopeless situation when he states, "I am the first person to be alone on an entire planet."
Technically the film is outstanding. The special effects, location landscapes, music, and film direction are all exceptional. The final rescue is both dramatic and emotional. The commander ultimately redeems herself and Mark returns to Earth with his original crew and teaches his students all about his experiences including "farming in my own shit." Highly recommended for those who love science and space travel.
I thought the film was quite dumb. I hate it when they dumb down the 'science' to explain things to us. Give the audience more credit. The storyline suffered badly in this one and nothing ever really happened, a bit like the movie Gravity. Good intentions and effects but overall quite dull.