The Martian opened this weekend, which was adapted from Andy Weir’s 2011 novel of the same name and directed by Ridley Scott. It centers about astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) as he tries to survive the harsh conditions of Mars. He’s all alone after his crew aborted their mission, assuming him dead after debris sent him flying during a hellish storm and knocked out his life support sensors. But surprise, he didn’t die! Luckily, he’s a botanist and a mechanical engineer, while will help him survive in an environment where nothing lives or grows (or maybe it does*).
*That’s not a spoiler. Still waiting for NASA to announce microbiological life on Mars.
It’s unlike any space movie I’ve ever seen. Most space movies focus on overcoming some disaster that’s occurred and likely going to kill off your characters. And yeah, while this does happen in The Martian, it has a very different tone to approaching these problematic situations. A lot of shit happens to Watney, and any one thing would easily be enough to break one person. Despite everything, he keeps on going; he endures. He adapts and changes, and when situations get too difficult, he remains hopeful. There are a few moments where he has bouts of rage and frustration, but he always cools off right away and picks himself off.
That’s really the central point of the film: hope. It perfectly captures everything that Mars represents for us and space exploration. It’s hard, it’s always going to be hard, but we can do it. We should do it because it’s worth it. Nothing captures this better than the climax of the film, when the entire world is waiting in anticipation to see if Watney’s rescue mission was a success. It brings us together as human beings.
I have to say though, my favorite scene was when he makes a journey to track down Voyager, the probe we launched back in 1996, in an attempt to get it online and contact NASA. When Watney find it and dusts it off, I legitimately teared up. As a kid (and as an adult), Mars was always my favorite planet aside from Pluto. Being a science geek, I was (am) always excited to hear or see anything new about these planets. They’ve always represented the future of science and humanity. So, it struck a nostalgic nerve in me to see that thing again.
You don’t need an excuse to see The Martian though, it speaks for itself. I already want to see it again.