Jungle
The Martian

There’s being alone, and then there’s stranded by yourself on an inhospitable planet millions of miles away from the nearest person alone. Surviving the ocean, the jungle, or even the arctic seems like a walk in the park when compared to the desolate planet of Mars, but that’s exactly the situation astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) has found himself in.

 

Mark is part of the Ares III manned mission to Mars, and a series of unlikely events leaves him stranded on the Red Planet while the rest of his crew, believing him to be dead, escape back into orbit and head back on the long journey to Earth. Alone and with dwindling supplies, Mark must utilize everything he has in order to find a way to communicate with NASA and figure out a way to survive long enough to be rescued. It’s a daunting task, especially since there are hundreds of ways Mars could kill him in an instant.

 

Film adaptations of novels are rarely as good as their source material, but thankfully The Martian lives up to the hype. I’m a huge fan of Andy Weir’s book, and the film does its best to stay true to its story. Matt Damon is a great Mark Watney, bringing to live the ingenuity and humor the character has on paper. Stranded alone on Mars, he’s the story’s main focus for the majority of the film. Much of it is told through daily video diaries where Mark explains his inner thoughts to the camera. A scene goes something like this; Mark explains what he’s going to do so that he does die, explains how dangerous said thing is, does said thing and hope he doesn’t die.

 

Weir’s book is extremely technical in explaining all the science and math behind everything Watney does. The film doesn’t get as detailed, but it does manage to provide enough information so that it’s still believable. You cheer for his successes and you wince at every failure because you know that one misstep could be his last. At least, that’s what Ridley Scott wants you to believe, right?

 

Where The Martian doesn’t live up to its novel counterpart is in its depiction of danger. While Watney is always one moment away from being sucked into the vacuum of space, it never truly feels that way in the film. Sure there’s danger, but it’s nothing more than you would expect from your average action film.

 

One of the most dangerous parts of the novel is when Watney ventures out on a 2,000 mile drive across the Martian desert. It’s a trip that takes dozens of days and features such obstacles as a tipped over rover and a massive dust storm that threatens his solar cells. It’s one of the most tense moments in the book, but the film just glosses over it with a quick time jump. It obviously can’t fit everything from the novel into the film, but this seemed like a crucial moment.

 

The Martian also includes an ensemble cast consisting of Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Aksel Hennie, Sebastian Stan, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Donald Glover, Sean Bean, and Chiwetel Ejiofor as the Ares III crew and the people at NASA trying to figure out how to bring him home. It’s great to see all these various people working together to rescue one person. The film is almost like one big advertisement for NASA and space exploration, and that’s not a bad thing.

 

Mars couldn’t be more prevalent in the news right now with the recent announcement that NASA has found flowing water on the planet. The Martian will get people excited about space again. It’s a fantastic science fiction film that heavily focuses on the science aspect while still being entertaining for general audiences. It’s the best of both worlds, or in this case, Earth and Mars.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
Follow him @ Twitter
Friend him @ Facebook