The Martian (2015)
October 3, 2015 2:29 PM - Subscribe

During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.
posted by octothorpe (131 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Really liked this movie. Best 3D experience in a long time, on par with Gravity, with a much better script (or at least dialog).
The movie did the book justice (might even like the movie more), although I would have been fine with even more science-y monologue from Damon.
Normally, anything over 2 hours can be difficult to sit through but this flew by. Mars looked awesome. Great casting. Maybe a few predictable beats — more difficult to tell when you know what is coming — but Ridley Scott shows he still has it when he has a good script. (Prometheus was just a bad dream, right?)
posted by starman at 3:10 PM on October 3, 2015


Saw it last night. Hands down the best Mars movie, and one of the best space movies, ever made.

It's not perfect; Andy Weir himself admits that a Martian storm would really just feel like a stiff breeze due to the thin atmosphere. But the gaffes everyone else always makes -- the scale of space, the time needed for interplanetary travel, the strict limits on orbital maneuvering -- those universal shortcuts are not taken and are in fact major plot points.

There is stuff that is in the book but not the movie, but the movie is true enough to the book that it you could almost treat the book as a reference manual for people who want more detail about the movie. Explanations are left out but what is shown onscreen is compatible with the left-out explanations in the book. Contrast this with, for example, 2010 where the time frame for the Discovery-boosted escape from about-to-stellarize Jupiter was shortened to a ridiculous degree to "tighten" the script. The Martian isn't afraid to show you a text slide that says "seven months later" half-way through the movie. Things take that long.

The movie also does not make the mistake of taking itself too seriously and there were many laugh-out-loud moments when the whole theatre was filled with chuckles. It's hard to think of another movie other than 2001 and maybe Europa Report which takes on space travel without the scale shortcuts which are so often distracting to anyone who knows how this stuff really works.
posted by Bringer Tom at 3:11 PM on October 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


I liked this movie a lot, more than any Ridley Scott film in a very long time. I saw it in 2D so I don't know how that compares to Gravity but I loved how this film looked and moved, Scott used a pretty steady classical approach to the camera work and editing here that seems more appropriate to the subject matter than the showy work in Cuarón's film did. The pacing was remarkable, it never felt drawn out but never hurried either.

Damon did a great job carrying most of the picture without it seeming like a one-man stage show. If I have a complaint about the acting, it's that there were so many a-list actors who weren't really given much to do. I liked that there were no villains, Daniel's NASA administrator was officious but never the stereotypical government asshole that usually shows up in movies like this. Credit Drew Goddard for keeping a lot of those typical Hollywood tropes out of the screenplay.

One quibble is the post-rescue epilogue on Earth which seemed unnecessary.
posted by octothorpe at 3:48 PM on October 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


The Earth epilogue was a small misstep. Weir wrote such a final chapter for the book (which, at the time, he was putting online for his online friends) but he deprecated it, feeling that it wasn't necessary and took away some of the story's punch. The movie probably should have observed the same wisdom but it's a small sin considering the number of things they did right.
posted by Bringer Tom at 3:54 PM on October 3, 2015


Nothing in life has said to me "you are the kind of person who gets a degree in creative writing and not the kind of person who gets a degree in engineering" like that book.

I am a little curious about how the movie will be received, since it's probably lighter on the word problems, and that's, like, the book's whole schtick.
posted by thetortoise at 4:08 PM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I liked that there were no villains, Daniel's NASA administrator was officious but never the stereotypical government asshole that usually shows up in movies like this. Credit Drew Goddard for keeping a lot of those typical Hollywood tropes out of the screenplay.

Seriously. I can't think of a single other American movie where a bureau of the Chinese government saves the day.
posted by Itaxpica at 4:50 PM on October 3, 2015 [17 favorites]


I am a little curious about how the movie will be received

It's currently at 94% at RottenTomatoes both on the critic TomatoMeter and with audiences, and based on Friday's receipts they're predicting $50M or so for the weekend which will be near if not actually record-setting for an October opening, so the consensus answer seems to be "very well."
posted by Bringer Tom at 4:51 PM on October 3, 2015


I also loved it. I actually really missed some of the word problem feel of the book and Watney's narration, I think mostly because I listened to the audiobook, so the comparative lack of Watney narration felt especially glaring to me. But I loved so much that the movie was basically one long SCIENCE FUCK YEAH!, and I loved how unabashedly optimistic it was. I think the Grantland review called the movie "competence porn," and that's exactly it for me. A bunch of people who are good at their jobs! Also they're good people who never for a moment suggest that they leave Mark Watney to die!

And what a great cast. I agree that it kind of feels like a waste at times given how little they were given to do, but I think the strength of the actors gave the otherwise thin characters some needed weight, and made the world feel lived in and real.

Also goddamn, I loved the Hermes space ship. It looked gloriously believable yet still futuristic and science fiction-y.
posted by yasaman at 7:07 PM on October 3, 2015 [14 favorites]


I wanted to spend more time in the space ship, it was such a great set.
posted by octothorpe at 7:14 PM on October 3, 2015


I loved the book, and I went to the movie with some trepidation. And wow, they knocked it out of the park. This is one of the very best book adaptations I've seen - a few extra flourishes, some things condensed, simplified, and stripped out, but overall extraordinarily true to the spirit and vibe of the book. Well done! I hope it makes a boat load of money and tells movie makers that there's room for intelligent and smart movies, not just franchise sequels.

I also watched it in 3D with some trepidation - I usually don't care for it - and again, the 3D effects were a genuine addition to the movie, allowing gorgeous shots of the Hermes drifting by, long shots of free fall, sweeping Martian panoramas. Basically perfect.
posted by RedOrGreen at 7:59 PM on October 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Add me to the list of people who really loved the movie. I bought the book after seeing the first teaser but haven't gotten around to reading it yet. It's the best space movie I can think of since Apollo 13, and did a pretty nice job in terms of having roles for women and people of color that that movie couldn't have due to being tied to real life.

There were teeny, tiny nit picks I could make, but they are incredibly pointless and there's no reason to alter them.

Hell of a movie. Can't wait to watch it again.

The Martian isn't afraid to show you a text slide that says "seven months later" half-way through the movie. Things take that long.

I'd say it was critical that they do this, stick to the scale and the time periods the real world has to. Mark doesn't feel anywhere near as isolated if Mars feels like it's just a short hop away, and his terrifying resource constraints don't feel the same either.
posted by sparkletone at 8:14 PM on October 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Good and enjoyable film. What I loved most was how life affirming it was and the last of anyone being evil.

My biggest complaint was how many great actors didn't have much to do, but they and the script handled that well. That main point was that NASA is co-operative agency and everything they do is based on nerds and geeks working together to do extraordinary things.

I had a little trouble believing that crew would be so reckless as to mutiny, when the supply ship was pretty much certain to reach him. Lousy move on the commander's part. It made her physically rescuing Whatley a bit antic climatic.

But I love the humor through the film, that made it's long running time bearable. I think the coda back on Earth was great. Having such a disconnected character eventually connect back others was necessary and gave the movie's obvious pro NASA stance a firmer grounding. Yes, what the do is needed, but yeah, it's dangerous work.

So many great lines though "Are you fucking kidding?" "What the hell is the El Ron project" "Technically, I"m a space pirate" "You want to send me into space in a convertible?"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:49 PM on October 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I loved it. And really needed it, too. I saw it last night after a pretty horrible day in med school, and came out really pumped up because all I have to do is learn about how metabolism works; it's not like I have to figure out how to farm on Mars.

The movie also fixed the one thing that really bothered me in the book; Watney doesn't tell Johansson how to handle her love life anymore. Hooray!
posted by ocherdraco at 9:19 PM on October 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


Also, the soundtrack was great!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:35 PM on October 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Adored this move. Someone called it a love letter to NASA, and that was about all it took to get me into the theater. And I haven't seen a move on the theater in probably a year, maybe longer. But it was really spectacular. Planning on reading the book now, I've heard from a few people it only adds to the movie. One glowing review from a friend who dislikes fiction books.

I haven't seen it in 3d, and I generally don't like 3d movies, but I may have to make an exception for a second viewing.

(I have to admit though, I'm sad we didn't get a "Fuck this planet!" at the end.)

So when are we going to Mars for realsies?
posted by [insert clever name here] at 2:16 AM on October 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I loved it. I loved the book too and the film was true to the book. The things left out (like the "traveling around the storm when we don't know exactly how big or where the storm is" part), were fine. I noticed they weren't there, but that didn't detract at all from the movie. Matt Damon was awesome, struck the perfect note of plucky, quippy, humor and just enough occasional true despair to make you believe him.
posted by biscotti at 6:53 AM on October 4, 2015


The things left out (like the "traveling around the storm when we don't know exactly how big or where the storm is" part), were fine.

One of my friends asked what was different about the book and the movie. I said that in the book, he almost dies a few more times. My friend sighed and said, "I wouldn't be able to take it!"
posted by tofu_crouton at 7:25 AM on October 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh man, I can't wait for the sequel.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:58 AM on October 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I did really like it and I totally take the point of the person upthread who said there were good roles for women and PoC, but I was super annoyed from the start that Mindy Park's character got whitewashed - there's no way they couldn't find an Asian woman to play that part. It's a small gripe in the grand scheme of Hollywood whitewashing, but it maybe stood out to me even more because they did a reasonably good job with diverse casting compared to other Hollywood films (I assume Chiwetel Ejiofor was cast as Vincent Kapoor because there are very few Indian actors who would be as bankable?).

Otherwise, delighted they edited out the piece of unnecessary misogyny that spoiled the book for me, and Jessica Chastain was excellent. There were tons of kids at the screening I went to, and I hope it inspires some of them to go and be amazing scientists.
posted by theseldomseenkid at 8:23 AM on October 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Apparently Irrfan Kahn was the first choice for the role but he cancelled due to scheduling.
posted by octothorpe at 8:38 AM on October 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


I watched this movie after listening to the excellent audiobook twice, and the film version seemed to fly by. I wish I could experience it without that background, because it seemed so much less interesting without the in depth problem solving. I think I would have liked it more if I didn't know what I was missing out on. I'd probably prefer a miniseries adaptation.

On the other hand, my space-happy nine-year-old loved it. Apollo 13 was a recent big hit with her, so I wasn't surprised. And I was glad for her to see women in significant roles, especially mission commander. I think the kid will insist on seeing it at least one more time before it leaves theaters.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:33 AM on October 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have a space happy 8 year old that I'm dying to take to see this. All reviews say that the Pg 13 rating is mostly for language and tense moments. No excessive gore. He is crazy smart and mature, nuts about space. Would ya'll think 8 is old enough?
posted by pearlybob at 10:26 AM on October 4, 2015


Parent's guide from the IMDB. Personally, I'd totally take an eight year old to this. I took my then six year old son to see Apollo 13 way back when it came out and he was enraptured. His favorite scene was the one where they had to make the filters fit using duck-tape which is basically this whole movie.
posted by octothorpe at 10:49 AM on October 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Would ya'll think 8 is old enough?Would ya'll think 8 is old enough?

Are you fucking kidding me?!

That phrase (and several variations) are an often repeated joke throughout the movie. So be warned, but they're pretty funny and perfect for when they appear.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:29 AM on October 4, 2015


Would ya'll think 8 is old enough?

The rating is mostly for the swearing. The only gory part that I recall is a scene at the start where he has to do some minor surgery on himself.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 12:00 PM on October 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


When Mark says "fuck", they do contextualize it as being inappropriate for public use. That of course would make it seem cool to a child, but at least a child would recognize that they shouldn't say it.

I get the impression certain choices were made to make it specifically family friendly. I think it's fine for an 8 yr old.
posted by tofu_crouton at 12:01 PM on October 4, 2015


Also, the soundtrack was great!

Which, the Top Hits of the '70s or the composed score? I liked the score quite a bit, much more subtle than you'd expect for a movie like this; the K-Tel disco hits I could have done without but I felt the same way about Guardians of the Galaxy.
posted by octothorpe at 12:46 PM on October 4, 2015


Just saw it again. The small stuff they got wrong jumped out a bit more -- duct tape and what looks suspiciously like polyethylene film holding in atmospheric pressure, and duct tape doing several other miraculous things. Earth being a big globe in the sky with minimal comm delays when the course-change mutiny occurs, when that would have had to happen much earlier. Zero-G acrobatics which violate Newton's laws of motion, and an external hull crawl which would have been far more dangerous than anything else in the film because if you miss one handhold, bye-bye Hermes, hello interplanetary space. Watney lying on the ground under the Rover to rest during his big journey, hey big guy did you forget why you brought the RTG? It's all freezing out there. And Watney's Iron Man flight at the climax wouldn't work because if he doesn't keep the thrust vector aimed through his center of mass he spins.

Yet The Martian does the opposite of what nearly all other planetary space movies do; it gets little things wrong but the big things like orbital dynamics, time frames, and life support dynamics (including what happens when you have a leak or decompression event) right. Most of the others get the little things right, like lovingly thought out portrayals of control consoles and EV suits, but shortcuts on the big things that make the story completely irreconcilable with reality to get more visuals or "better" pacing.

So I can easily gloss over most of the things that are "wrong" with The Martian because they're little things that are, like the super adhesives, explained better and very consistently in the book. But in multiple space movies, including Gravity, you have folks flitting about between objects in very different orbits as if it's like fording a small river. In Apollo 18 (not to be confused with the much better reality baseed 13) you have lovingly accurate reconstructions of the module and things like the DSKY, but then the lander just happens to land within walking distance of another Soviet lander, a feat which would have been utterly impossible without the knowledge of the lander pilot and lots of help from Mission Control. In Red Planet the surface party discovers by accident that Mars' atmosphere has become breathable, something that could easily be observed from Earth much less Mars orbit but was somehow missed.

And hey, no alien civilizations, faces on Mars, etc. Just sayin'.
posted by Bringer Tom at 2:21 PM on October 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


Oh god, Red Planet. That movie had basically the same plot as this one but did everything wrong that this one did right. The magically breathable atmosphere made me want to throw things at the screen.
posted by octothorpe at 4:31 PM on October 4, 2015


I really liked that it was a love letter to NASA (which I am generally bitterly cynical about for my own personal reasons) and optimistic about science and the future and international cooperation and all that. I haven't read the book, but I wasn't sorry to see the ending and get the sense that there had been some consequences for the choices people made, both good ones and not-so-good ones.
posted by immlass at 5:58 PM on October 4, 2015


The council of Elrond joke was superb, especially with Sean Bean there.

But the most unbelievable thing about the whole film is that Sean Bean didn't die.
posted by crossoverman at 6:44 PM on October 4, 2015 [37 favorites]


Would ya'll think 8 is old enough?Would ya'll think 8 is old enough?

The language is largely coded. They frequently refer to it as the F-word rather than saying it, and when he does pantomime saying it there is no audio. Additionally, NASA scolds him to remind/inform him that the whole world is listening.

There is brief male nudity from behind if you care about that. There's also a bit of gore when Watney has to operate on himself.
posted by willnot at 7:13 PM on October 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


A great movie, and very true to the book. We'll likely go see it again in 3D, having seen the 2D version.

I was glad that they didn't give Watney a wife and kids back on earth, which some of the advance reviews had implied. Less lovey-dovey stuff leaves a lot more room for wonderful, wonderful Science and Engineering!
posted by monotreme at 9:39 PM on October 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Even in 2D, seeing this on a big screen is highly recommended.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:09 PM on October 4, 2015


Would ya'll think 8 is old enough?Would ya'll think 8 is old enough?

What everyone else said. I'm pretty cautious about what I let my kids see, but the nine-year-old has ventured into some Marvel Comics Movies, and I'd say this is less scary than by far than your average superhero movie. My kid closed her eyes as the main character was stapling a wound closed, but it wasn't particularly gory. He had to remove a bit of metal left in a small circular wound where some flying debris had pierced his abdomen in a storm. Then he numbed the area with several injections and stapled it closed. You get a brief shot of Matt Damon's butt as he gets out of the shower. There are several instances of the f-bomb, mostly coded. There are also several instances of "shit," at least one of which is used literally. We are pretty conservative about acceptable language in my house, so I had a talk with my kid beforehand to say that she would hear some words in this movie that some adults use, but I didn't want her to use them, and that was it. Overall, I thought she got more than enough interest and inspiration from it to put up with a the hassle of contextualizing some stuff.

Admittedly, my kid is one of the nine-year-old who basically spends most of the time acting like a very short adult who is tolerating children until she gets a chance to move away and live her real life, but I think most 8-9 year olds could handle this movie just fine.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:01 AM on October 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


Loved it. I've been a huge fan of the book since the moment I heard about it and was really looking forward to the film.

It was so nice to see a movie that was 100% optimistic. No guns, no violence, no bad guys. Even the head of NASA was simply doing his job and trying to protect the crew. He wasn't a bad guy at all.

Like others, I have a few small nitpicks. The spacecraft and hab all seemed a bit... luxurious. I know they need to be somewhat roomy to work on screen but I suspect when we finally do get to Mars we won't have a centrifuge with one section devoted to a giant gymnasium. Things will be a bit more cramped.

When is Hollywood going to stop doing that "text appears on computer screens one character at a time and makes a little dit dit dit noise as it appears?" I mean, is there anyone watching any movie these days that doesn't know what a computer screen actually looks like?

The stuff they left out of the book, the frying of the Pathfinder, the storm and the rover accident, probably wouldn't have worked in the film anyway.

I didn't think they needed the scene tacked on to the end, with Watney talking to the future astronauts. I did however enjoy the scenes over the ending credits, with the crew all watching the launch of Ares V. Nice to see they didn't cancel the whole program.

I'm also enjoying the hype this is giving to NASA and Mars. I follow a few NASA accounts on Twitter and they're all jumping all over this, capitalizing on the hype.
posted by bondcliff at 6:31 AM on October 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm also enjoying the hype this is giving to NASA and Mars. I follow a few NASA accounts on Twitter and they're all jumping all over this, capitalizing on the hype.

Yeah, it's annoying. NASA's all over this, but the earliest time frame for this in 2030s and that's a long time to hype anything. Meanwhile NASA's posts about this keep implying it's right around the corner and a sure thing. It isn't, not by a long shot.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:57 AM on October 5, 2015


True, but if this movie gets a few more future and current voters interested in crewed space travel it could keep the timeframe from jumping beyond the 2030s. I think they're wise to jump on it.
posted by bondcliff at 7:00 AM on October 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


Overall I enjoyed it but I regretted seeing it in 3D. Maybe it's because I wear glasses but I felt like I was struggling to see the whole time, even though I've seen other 3D movies just fine before. Having read and loved the book I was bummed by a few things - mostly Mindy Park being white and the unnecessarily over-dramatic rescue. I really liked how in the book when they came to get him the whole point was that he didn't have to keep saving himself, that his people were there for him. I liked that they laughed off the Ironman comment and just saved him. Seemed an unnecessary change.

I liked that it was diverse, but still was less diverse than 98% of all work meetings I've ever been in.
posted by bleep at 9:53 AM on October 5, 2015


But the most unbelievable thing about the whole film is that Sean Bean didn't die.

Not only that, but nobody dies at all. I'm struggling to think of another recent PG-13 blockbuster where that's true.
posted by theodolite at 10:36 AM on October 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


The potato plants died, you heartless monster!!!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:37 AM on October 5, 2015 [27 favorites]


Just wait for Troma's The Martian II: Attack of the Killer Potatoes.
posted by Etrigan at 10:41 AM on October 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I liked that it was diverse, but still was less diverse than 98% of all work meetings I've ever been in.


But more diverse than 98% of Hollywood movies. Not that we should let them off the hook but at least this was a step in the right direction. Still with the white guy in the lead role though.
posted by octothorpe at 11:01 AM on October 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah I give them a B+ for diversity which is still better than a C or a D. Or an F. Better than it could have been but did Mindy really need to be blonde? OK outburst complete.
posted by bleep at 11:09 AM on October 5, 2015


As someone who hasn't read the book, the fact that the character was blonde meant nothing. If anything, I thought it was great that she was female and sort of the point person on discovering and tracking Whatley.

Could you have also been Asian? Sure, no problem, but I don't see it as necessary, especially when the head of one team was Asian and there's was an Asian female in the Chinese office. In fact, I'm kinda baffled why people are complaining about it when there is so much diversity in the film with so many obviously smart and capable people.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:37 AM on October 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Could you have also been Asian? Sure, no problem, but I don't see it as necessary...

Yeah, there's always a perfectly acceptable reason why a character doesn't have to be Asian/female/gay/non-cis-het-white-male.
posted by Etrigan at 11:42 AM on October 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


Nah, it's more like she was Asian in the book, so some are understandably disappointed or upset that she isn't Asian in the movie. Again, totally understandable, but don't think it matters much in this particular instance.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:47 AM on October 5, 2015


I thought most of the supporting characters were realistic (if a little thin), but I feel like I've seen Donald Glover's Arrogant Genius Hacker Slob in a dozen other movies. Also I'm not sure why he needed a room-sized supercomputer to double-check the maneuver but maybe he was simulating the entire galaxy just to be really sure
posted by theodolite at 11:51 AM on October 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'll admit that I laughed out loud when he had his laptop plugged directly into the HPC cluster as if there's no such thing as a network and then got a pop-up modal saying something like "Calculations Correct!".
posted by octothorpe at 11:57 AM on October 5, 2015 [11 favorites]


I wanted to spend more time in the space ship, it was such a great set.

Yes, but I have the same Salt/Pepper shakers as Hermes does. Ikea. Kind of ripped me out of that moment...
posted by schmod at 11:59 AM on October 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wait. What. Was there some sort of product-placement deal?
posted by schmod at 12:00 PM on October 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'll admit that I laughed out loud when he had his laptop plugged directly into the HPC cluster

I initially had a problem with that but then I decided they did it to show what a giant nerd he was, that he felt at home inside the super computer.

But yeah, could you even plug into something like that?
posted by bondcliff at 12:15 PM on October 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


The movie was really really good. That said, here's some nits (some book spoilers):

So as already mentioned, they leave out the part where he fries pathfinder. That's fine. But, they leave in the space pirate line, which depends on being out of contact. Mark says in the movie that no one's given him express permission to commandeer the Ares IV MAV, and that they can't until he gets there. That lack of permission is a critical component of the joke. But he's in contact with NASA the whole time! In the scene after that one, we learn that he's told the joke to NASA. How is it that they can't give him permission to take the MAV until he gets there?

Also, jesus, that untethered, no adjusters EVA across the outside of the Ares. It wasn't necessary to play the scene that way, it felt like just copying Gravity for the sake of copying Gravity. While we're on that - why does he go from one airlock to the other on the outside and then back again? He needs to go from one to the other to leave the outside door open. That only requires one trip across the outside of the station. They wanted Johanssen to have the moment with the guy, but they could have managed that without the extra external transit.

It looked like Martinez was going up again on the next mission at the end. Was that him? Why does he get to go to Mars again? He mutinied, and that's not something NASA forgets, as mentioned in the movie. Plus, radiation exposure being what it is, we probably wouldn't send the same person to Mars twice anyway.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:49 PM on October 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


When I read the book I thought it was funny that the movie would have to have fantastic visuals, yet the book was pretty much devoid of visual imagination. The book didn't care about the appearance of anything. The movie had to care a lot.

OTOH the movie was devoid of the story problem aspect. Could they have gone for it? In the book, Watney geeks out and drags the reader through the details, but the camera isn't really interested in that shit at all. Only the Troy Barnes maneuver gets a visual assist, and even then it's like, "How can we do this without showing even a single diagram to the audience?" The book would seem to cry out for overlays, CSI-like camera explorations, etc. but the movie eschewed that crap. The airlock fabric just rips, okay? You don't need its life story. The camera wants you to know it is not a nerd. Sometimes it felt like wise restraint; at other times it felt dumbed down, like it was missing the whole point.

One thing I liked is how they did not have much gratuitous peril. I can't remember many things ALLLMOST going shitty. No whizzing objects almost decapitate people in slow-mo. No timers clunk towards 00:00. No one's life is saved because they barely—oh barely, dear viewer!—grasp an object for the tenth time in a row. The cracked suit visor was a real moment of panic but that's not really gratuitous.

(I'll just pretend the Iron Man maneuver didn't happen. And okay the space walk to get away from the bomb by The Blandest Character In The Universe was gratuitous and silly. I feel like its dramatic purpose was just to make Chastain's decision to go fetch Damon more like relieving an exhausted team member, so it goes down easier.)

I like that the movie wanted to show how challenges can be planned for and met; you think ahead, put yourself in the best position to succeed, and do the things. It's not just all gimmicks, overwrought hyperloaded emotional decisions, and absurd luck and near misses that are boring and stupid but somehow get sold as drama. The movie's about characters trying to make smart decisions and doing the things they're good at. (It's a little like a sports movie in a way.)
posted by nom de poop at 1:51 PM on October 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


Also I'm not sure why he needed a room-sized supercomputer to double-check the maneuver but maybe he was simulating the entire galaxy just to be really sure.

The system requirements for Kerbal Space Program 5 are fucking crazy by our standards.
posted by sparkletone at 2:24 PM on October 5, 2015 [8 favorites]


Trajectories for constant-thrust spacecraft are calculated by numerical methods. Those can take an arbitrarily large amount of time and resources if you make the timeslices small enough and the precision large enough. Andy Weir did the orbits on his desktop computer with a time resolution of "a few minutes" (at least according to the webcast talk I saw him give). But he didn't have to justify sending an actual spacecraft on that journey. Demand millisecond time precision and 256-bit floating point math and yeah, you might need a supercomputer even in the 2030's.
posted by Bringer Tom at 3:17 PM on October 5, 2015 [8 favorites]


It looked like Martinez was going up again on the next mission at the end.

It also appeared that Henderson was still running things, which I suppose was the movie suggesting that people who successfully solve difficult problems will be in demand and much will be forgiven.
posted by Bringer Tom at 3:21 PM on October 5, 2015


It looked like Martinez was going up again on the next mission at the end.

How did he justify THAT to his wife?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:50 PM on October 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


Demand millisecond time precision and 256-bit floating point math and yeah, you might need a supercomputer even in the 2030's.

Sure but he doesn't need to be sitting in the air-conditioned server farm with a LAN cable stuck into his laptop.
posted by octothorpe at 4:32 PM on October 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's an excellent visual that illustrates how intensive and large the calculations are for the maneuver. You can only eyeball something like that in Kerbal Space Program.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:41 PM on October 5, 2015


I was fine with Mindy Park being blonde, I honestly did not realize she was Asian in the book.

And at least in the book, Rich Purnell is pretty obviously on the spectrum. He's not so much Arrogant as Obssessed.
posted by stoneegg21 at 6:20 PM on October 5, 2015


Rich Purnell is pretty obviously on the spectrum.

Well he is a steely eyed missile man.
posted by Bringer Tom at 6:51 PM on October 5, 2015 [8 favorites]


Can I bring my 13 year old to this without nightmares etc after?
posted by latkes at 8:07 PM on October 5, 2015


You most definitely can. Earlier comments about the content spell out the major stuff in terms of warnings (some light gore near the start because of a self-surgery scene, swears as a running joke, a brief moment of dude butt). Unless your 13 year old's particularly squeamish about anything described above they will be more than fine. It's nowhere near as relentlessly stressful as Gravity.
posted by sparkletone at 9:02 PM on October 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yay! I think she'll love it so I just wanted to check with real humans before I take her.
posted by latkes at 9:05 PM on October 5, 2015


How did he justify THAT to his wife?!

She totes divorced him. Or maybe he's a really annoying husband and she needed another (1.5 year) break.

Why does he get to go to Mars again?


He's apparently an insanely good pilot. Successfully remote piloting a cannibalised MAV from the surface, for the first time ever? He was probably hailed as a god of pilots.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:47 PM on October 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


Nah, it's more like she was Asian in the book, so some are understandably disappointed or upset that she isn't Asian in the movie.

Not that it wouldn't have been nice to see an Asian-American in the role if only to reflect the diversity of NASA and contractors, but is she explicitly Asian in the book or from Weir elsewhere? I mean, yeah, sure, there are a lot of Koreans named Park, but AFAIK there are also a lot of honkeys named Park too.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:31 PM on October 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


is she explicitly Asian in the book or from Weir elsewhere?

I reread the book after seeing the movie and I didn't notice anything making her explicitly Asian or explicitly white. I had assumed she was Korean-American the first time through, but Park is as much an English surname as a Korean one. Someone needs to ask Andy Weir to settle it for us!
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 10:42 PM on October 5, 2015


That has to be some whitewashing, if maybe unintentional. I mean, Andy Weir is not the world's most subtle writer (disco jokes), and naming a character "Mindy Park" and casting a blonde woman seems as funny as if you named a character "Tommy Rooney" and were surprised when everybody assumed he was Irish American.
posted by thetortoise at 10:56 PM on October 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


On the swearing front - I've heard that the rule is that if you're a PG-13 movie you only get to say fuck twice. They did that, and then every occurrence after the second "fuck" was elided, muted, or only referenced. I thought they did well within the limitations, but knowing the reason made it a little obvious. If you look closely the "going out live" transcript during the initial contact between Watney and NASA is shown on the mission control board in the background and has "f---" or similar. It may be live, but there's a censor built in!

"Shit" you can apparently use a lot more, I'm not sure if there's a specific number for that.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:24 PM on October 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


A little googling suggests that the common wisdom is one, but that the ratings board is, in fact, fairly inconsistent on it. Anyway, general point stands with or without a specific quota.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:26 PM on October 5, 2015


I loved both the movie and the book and felt the movie really did the book justice. It's been a while since I read the book but what was the misogynist part referred to above?
posted by Lesium at 1:48 PM on October 6, 2015


I think the movie did a pretty good job with the swearing considering that it's one of the central points of the book; Watney is alone, in very deep peril, and has zero fucks to give about trivialities like saying fuck. It's one of the things that makes Watney feel like a real character and not a stiff-upper-lipped astrobot.
posted by Bringer Tom at 2:21 PM on October 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


The misogynistic bit that spoiled it for me is when he's communicating back with NASA and they tell him a committee's decided something he doesn't like or want to do or something, and he writes back something along the lines of 'tell all those guys on the board their mothers are prostitutes. And their sisters.'

So there aren't any women making those decisions, I guess? And a great insult is to say 'women related to you have sex...for money!'? It just really threw me out of the narrative, which I'd been enjoying until that point. It was just gratuitous and unnecessary; there are a lot of other insults available that don't rely on misogyny.
posted by theseldomseenkid at 5:07 AM on October 7, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's been a while since I read the book but what was the misogynist part referred to above?

That whole discussion of Mindy Park's worthiness to continue participating ("She found him!" "She was just on duty at the time!") was between two men, while she's standing right there in front of them.
posted by Etrigan at 5:58 AM on October 7, 2015


Hell, that conversation could have occurred with a guy.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:40 AM on October 7, 2015


Yes. It totally could have. Just like the vast majority of misogyny and microaggression, it absolutely was not provable in a court of law to be misogyny.

But I realize now that theseldomseenkid was talking about a misogynistic bit that was in the book but not the movie. My bad.
posted by Etrigan at 6:46 AM on October 7, 2015


I hope Matt Damon has sent a lovely fruit basket to Tom Hanks, because between Apollo 13 and Cast Away, this role has sort of been played already. That said, I found it eminently more satisfying than any other Holllywood blockbuster for the last couple of years. And I hope there is a good gag reel outtake of Sean Bean ad libbing repurposing old dialogue during the Elrond scene.

I haven't read the book since it was first released, so perhaps someone can refresh me on something or else confirm that it was added: after the airlock on the habitat blows out, a scene at NASA gravely expositions that starvation is now certain because his plants were all blown out, and the bacteria in their soil was killed by the Martian atmosphere. The next line of dialogue establishes that he still has a few weeks worth of potatoes left.

So: in the next scene he seals up the habitat again. He still has potatoes, he has an entire planet's worth of soil, and he is making more bacteria every day. Is there some reason he could not start farming again? He would not have the same, er, stockpile of bacteria, but compound interest, it is a thing.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:30 PM on October 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


IIRC in the book the blowout dessicates the poop-soil and he can't science the shit out of anything to make more water. One assumes somewhere between the scriptwriter and Ridley, the movie thought that was too complimacated fer them audience people.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:44 PM on October 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


My impression was that the potatoes were frozen solid and thus wouldn't sprout again. The bacteria themselves actually recover -- he tests the soil later in the interests of science.
posted by tavella at 9:04 PM on October 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yes in the book Watney actually says "potatoes are now extinct on Mars." He was only able to grow them in the first place because the Thanksgiving potatoes had not been frozen.
posted by Bringer Tom at 5:24 AM on October 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Can't wait to see this. Like, I might take a half day off work next week.

WRT the swearing: I 100% agree with BringerTom, above. The number of times that I heard an Effenheimer while listening to the audiobook surprised even me, certainly no stranger to spicy language. I suppose eliminating them is an easy way to lower the rating and boost attendance, but I thought Watney's foul mouth was part of his charm. Plus, also, at first he wasn't sure anyone would ever even hear his diary entries, so why keep them clean?
posted by wenestvedt at 6:28 AM on October 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


The movie totally manages to convey that Watney has a foul mouth without having the audience constantly hear it. It's kinda genius how they do it and you're right, it is charming.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:35 AM on October 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nothing in life has said to me "you are the kind of person who gets a degree in creative writing and not the kind of person who gets a degree in engineering" like that book.

Yeah. The book struck me as having XKCD syndrome - a work by a geek dude with amazing ideas but not a ton of artistic finesse. I tend to get really distracted by that kind of thing, so I didn't like the book at all. It translated amazingly well into film though.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:05 PM on October 8, 2015 [2 favorites]




It's...not?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:44 AM on October 9, 2015


I work with a guy who is convinced we have "secret military bases" on Mars. I've tried to explain that a) there would be no strategic reason to have a military base on Mars and b) It would be impossible to send humans to Mars without the entire world knowing about it.

His rebuttal? "I bet there is."

Can't argue with that.
posted by bondcliff at 7:57 AM on October 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


there would be no strategic reason to have a military base on Mars

We need a base on mores before the Russians or the Chinese, everyone knows that!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:33 AM on October 9, 2015


I thought the writing in the book was ... workmanlike. It was solid and managed to not get in the way of the story too much, which is way more than can be said for a lot of writing. I do wish we'd gotten to see a couple more bits from the book, particularly him gluing his hand with uber-epoxy. And, yeah, I'd like the hab canvas to look less like a painter's drop cloth. I kept twitching when he was just one billowing tarp away from the martian exterior.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:13 PM on October 9, 2015


BUT SEAN BEAN TALKING ABOUT PROJECT ELROND!

Also, Sean Bean didn't die! I didn't know you could do that in a movie any more.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:14 PM on October 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Saw this tonight, and it was everything I wanted it to be and nothing I didn't. So gratifying to have no stupid love plot, no stupid enemies/betrayals/cravenness, etc. Rare and delightful to have just good smart people trying to get things done. More movies like this.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:29 AM on October 10, 2015 [11 favorites]


Right?! I loved the fact that it was community trying to save one person, at great risk and expense, because everyone matters.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:05 AM on October 10, 2015


Another good thing my husband pointed out was that they make a point of all the support stuff being done by teams rather than the Lone Quirky Genius that so often populates these movies. (Donald Glover is the exception I guess.) Much more true to how actual big science/engineering projects get done.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:39 AM on October 10, 2015 [9 favorites]


Did I misremember how in the book Mindy Park actually found him on her own, and in the movie she was given a little note telling her where exactly to look?

Also I found it totally distracting that they whitewashed her.
posted by jeather at 4:38 PM on October 10, 2015


In the book, she figured it out, but Kapoor had given her a work order to check those coordinates.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:07 PM on October 10, 2015


I'm coming to this movie from a different perspective than a lot of people in this thread: I really, really hated the book. Like, "Husband, I must now yell at/with you for twenty minutes about how very wrong and awful this paragraph is... But wait: now I must do so again about the paragraph after that" levels of hatred. But! All the same, even as angry as I was about the book, I knew it would make a great movie. I have been waiting so long for this film! And boy, does it deliver.

There are a number of things that I think the movie got really right:
--No one ever questions whether it is worth it to save him. Not once. In the book, there are at least a few "Well, this sure is a lot of expense for one person!" asides. But not in the movie. And this is a good thing. Granted, there would be plenty of room in different movies for a lot of cost/benefit analysis and philosophic musings about the value of a single life. But this isn't the story for that. This is the story about hope and commitment and resolution and quick-thinking and perseverance. As was mentioned above, this is a movie without a villain, because of course we're going to go back for him. Of course. The lack of any such cost-related concerns helps the tone stay exactly where it should be for this story. This is such a Feel Good Movie, and it is entirely because never does the value of life--even a single life--get questioned. We get to rally around the mission, rather than get dragged down into cynical debates.

--The potato plants are important. Specifically, they have a deep emotional importance for Watney. We see him meet the very first bud, we get to see him carefully touch and handle them, we get to see him shattered at their sudden death... and then there's the point where his story reaches its emotional end: at the end, on Earth, he reconnects with a new little bud. I know some people in this thread really didn't like how the movie ended, but I loved it. I loved it, specifically, for that moment with that tiny plant. The book and the movie both like to make fun of his identity as a botanist (it's a "shit, botany is a real thing!??? that can be helpful??!!" sort of joking around), but it is important. It is plants that kept him alive, it is plants that failed him (and whom he failed, even if inadvertently, by destroying their home), and it is a plant that he ultimately gets to reconnect with. Keep in mind what a plant is: it is life. A budding plant in the ground, beneath one's feet, is life surging forth, thriving. When he greets that tiny little budding plant on Earth, he is reconnecting with life as a thriving, vital force.

--China helps out because of course they would help out. This isn't a comment about Chinese culture or politics, but again about humans: of course there would be offers of assistance by those who can assist. In the book, China helps in part because of course they would, but also in part as a sort of pointed political move. In the movie, we see tiny evidence of this calculated side to it, but otherwise it gets ignored. Sure, off screen, we can imagine that politicians are going to have their say and make negotiations. But what matters, for this movie, for this story? That the Chinese can help, and so of course they do.

--This is a movie in which women are people, and that is amazing. They do their jobs. They are in positions of power, and they have real influence on what happens. And they are not sexy. The world of The Martian (the movie, not the book) is a world in which women are people. And they have sex lives, sure, just as men do, but that never gets highlighted because it's not relevant to this story. It's great to watch.

I just saw the movie yesterday (I wanted to see it opening day, but I came down with a nasty cold! Curses!), and I wanna go see it again. It's just so, so good.
posted by meese at 8:43 AM on October 11, 2015 [13 favorites]


Minor Apollo geek note-At the end, I got the impression that Martinez was leading the next mission, which was great. But the fact that he got to lead his second mission AND essentially walk on Mars twice, was actually going to be a thing in the Apollo program.

An astronaut could only lead a Moon landing mission once. At that point, there would be no more moon landing missions. BUT. If you didn't lead the mission, just happened to be the Lunar Module Pilot (or Command Module Pilot), then sure, you could get the chance to walk on the Moon twice, provided that on your second mission you were promoted to Commander.

So seeing Martinez leading the next mission was a nice touch.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:53 AM on October 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


Whole family loved it and I just came in to say that not only was the music fun and good but they made the awesome Bowie choice because not only is Starman a good, rousing, familiar but not overplayed number, but it immediately reminds you, the second you hear Bowie, that you are not hearing Major Tom, and this is not hopeless! Extra, extra clever choice!
posted by latkes at 10:27 PM on October 11, 2015 [6 favorites]


Thanks, all -- I somehow thought the stored potatoes were in some sufficient well-insulated and sturdy container that they would not have frozen in the time the habitat was depressurized.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:25 AM on October 12, 2015


Got around to seeing this, really loved it. Probably going to end up at, or at least very near, the top of list for the year. Sure it's possible to nitpick some of the science and specifics (those name cards UGH!!), but really that never really bothers me and it's also not the point. My biggest problem was in fact with the epilogue ending, but only that I didn't like the combination of Watney on the bench and then teaching the class. One or other by itself would have been just fine for me.

My favorite thing about it is that it kinda defies general auteur theory to a large degree, which is something that I truly don't believe applies to all movies. This film in particular doesn't feel like it was authored by Ridley Scott. It definitely feels like a total team effort with the source material from Andy Weir, the strong adaptation from Drew Goddard, and the visual direction from Ridley Scott. With a healthy contribution from Matt Damon in a starring role that gives him a ton of freedom and responsibility. I think it's great when the source of the movie feels like a talented group of people working together at the height of their skills, rather than just the director churning out another typical piece of their filmography.

I haven't followed much of the press for this, but I can imagine that the filmmakers point back towards Weir and his story/characters as such a great foundation and Weir giving all the credit to the filmmakers for making a solid movie.
posted by dogwalker at 6:54 PM on October 13, 2015


Did I misremember how in the book Mindy Park actually found him on her own, and in the movie she was given a little note telling her where exactly to look?

Already answered above (Kapoor, aka Venkat, gave her the work order in the book as well) but I think that part suffers from some script economizing. I don't think the implication was supposed to be that Kapoor knew all along and was trying to point it out to Park, but for whatever reason the filmmakers didn't want to shoot a short montage showing Park scanning the area over the course of a few days and noticing the movement without the super-obvious "oh I'll just overlay pics from Sol 12 and Sol 54 because that's like the first thing you do of course lol" moment.

Also, I'll add that I had no idea that Mindy Park was supposed to be Korean from the book, whereas Venkat being changed into Kapoor and losing half of his Hindu ancestry was one of the first things I noticed.
posted by chrominance at 7:30 PM on October 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


And I hope there is a good gag reel outtake of Sean Bean ad libbing repurposing old dialogue during the Elrond scene.

"One does not simply walk into Acidalia Planitia..."
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:09 PM on October 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've not read the book, but I did notice the whole Space Pirate thing not making sense when I saw the film. NASA hasn't given him permission? What? Why not? Makes me think an earlier version of the script left in the Pathfinder-is-broken detail.
posted by axiom at 9:17 PM on October 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


So i thought the movie was good (yay for women with spesking roles! diversity! science!), but I did not like Matt Damon's character at all. He seemed like he was always playing up for the camera. It both made me really annoyed at all his little jokes, and also left me feeling like I never saw what he was really thinking or feeling. I felt the only time he was real was in the rover after the blowout and the loss of the plants.

(Also, ugh with the reading of the messages while typing. Either let us read or do a voiceover. People dont talk what they type!)
posted by LizBoBiz at 6:20 AM on October 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


(Also, ugh with the reading of the messages while typing. Either let us read or do a voiceover. People dont talk what they type!)

Maybe the director's cut will have fewer voiceovers.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:14 AM on October 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Weird detail - I saw the movie in Seattle at Cinerama, and I just noticed on their site that they apparently got a special high-brightness version, optimized for their weird projector.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 9:35 AM on October 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Didn't see anyone link these before, but all the Ares Live extras/viral videos are gold.

He seemed like he was always playing up for the camera.

This is a really interesting criticism to me, given that The Martian works on a couple different levels: it's both a traditional movie and a found footage film. Part of the conceit of the book and movie is that Watney is keeping a log. In the book, I don't recall it being specified how he was keeping the log. I listened to it on audiobook, so I assumed he was dictating, and I imagine if I had read it, I'd have imagined him writing it. But the movie, being a visual medium, had him keep a video log/vlog, and it showed the audience where the cameras are (in the hab, in the rover, in his suit helmet, etc). The element of performativity in Watney's logs is deliberate. He knows that someone is going to see these eventually, and he knows that his every decision is going to be examined, something that's more explicit in the book. So Watney really is playing up for the camera, his in-universe camera. Out of habit maybe (see the Ares Live videos, it seems like it was expected for the Ares missions to be social media connected), or more likely as a coping mechanism, he jokes and mugs for the camera as if it was a person, because who else has he got? Some lines of text on the Rover, once he re-establishes communications, and that's it.

So that element of performativity and playing up for the camera really worked for me, because it was a response to his isolation and loneliness. The jokes and lightheartedness are meant to hide what he's really feeling. Recording his experience for posterity is helping him keep his shit together. And in addition to his mini-breakdown in the Rover, we also got that brief moment of him being clearly on one of his last nerves while he was counting his food supply during another Martian storm. I loved that little moment of seeing him flinch in response to the sounds of the storm and the knowledge that some fancy plastic was all that was keeping him from the Martian void.

So I don't know, I think there's some interesting stuff to be said about how the knowledge of observation/surveillance shapes Watney's experience. It would be a very different movie if that found footage element wasn't there.
posted by yasaman at 10:48 AM on October 20, 2015 [12 favorites]


Sarah Donner has a music video for her song "Sol 529", about The Martian. Also, it has SPACE KITTENS in it.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:06 PM on October 20, 2015


it kinda defies general auteur theory to a large degree, which is something that I truly don't believe applies to all movies. This film in particular doesn't feel like it was authored by Ridley Scott.

I disagree. Sadly, I can't claim the insight - Anthony Lane pointed it out before I did, but that's why he has a Manhattan visa stamp and I don't:

"It is thirty-six years since Scott made “Alien,” and the true companion piece to that great film is not “Prometheus”—the gloomy, beautiful, and oddly superfluous prequel that he directed in 2012—but “The Martian.” Sigourney Weaver and Matt Damon are cut from similar cloth."

This observation is not an accident, nor inaccurate. The journey through the storm that opens the film is indisputably an echo of the landing party returning to Nostromo after the incident in the alien ship. Thus primed (to my regret) I saw echoes of the older film in nearly every shot.

Does it feel like an answer film? Like a systematic inversion of every other film the guy's made as director? Absolutely. Lane, again:

"Ridley Scott is seventy-seven years old, yet the startling fact is that “The Martian” appears to be the work of a young man."

Watney is Ripley, and Mars is the Antagonist. But this time, factually, Watney's the Alien, and he's the expression of life, the mother, if you will, of all those egg-shaped potatoes. It's an accident of perfect synchronicity that lands the man who embodied Jason Bourne in the role of Mark Watney.

My actual favorite scene in the film is the hydrogen explosion sequence, which is quite clearly shot as an homage to Chuck Jones' Roadrunner sequences; Watney is Wile E. Coyote in the bit and his Acme Hydration Kit creates slapstick havoc, of course.

The book actually kind of drove me nuts specifically because it was like reading a series of Wile E. Coyote stories where every time the damn fool canid sends $5 to the shill artists for his hundred-ton-weight, his atomic-powered fuel-injected heating unit, things work out fine! After about half the book, there was no dramatic tension for me as a reader. I was curious how this would be resolved in the film. Even though I'd read Weir's explanation of this in the context of him describing his goals and writing process, I was not satisfied by his explanation (roughly, "Watney's been through an intensive battery of psychological tests that select him for success in hard straits;" I invite correction as I was not terribly sympathetic to the view). Damon and the filmmakers took the actorly opportunity to give Mark Watney a fully-evident emotional life, explicitly including the terrifying and traumatic emotional experience, and wrote it all over his face. This may be my favorite element of the film.

if you're a space nerd, you know that Neil Armstrong had to land the LEM manually due to an unforeseen series of events and that his heart rate and respiration did not change appreciably as he did so. Commander Armstrong's dead, so we can't really interrogate him about what he felt, and he might have been disinclined to answer directly. But he was at pains in his life to depict himself as an unexceptional, hardworking, rational man. It seems unlikely that he would not have been afraid for his life and concerned about completing his landing successfully. Damon's Watney gives us an interior view of such a character in a situation where the most natural place for emotional expression is also the most private.

It's fucking awesome.
posted by mwhybark at 1:59 AM on October 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


I still don't see how many of those points lead to the movie being authored by 1 person instead of the team. Especially when the final product maintains as much of the source material as this. I'm not as familiar with Alien, having only seen it a couple times (but both within the last couple years), but The Martian made me think of it exactly zero times. So for me, it would definitely be inaccurate to call it a companion piece.

It does make me think more about film authors to try to see it that way, but I just don't agree. At least, not at all for a movie like this where the non-directors have such visible contributions.
posted by dogwalker at 2:35 PM on October 27, 2015


if you're a space nerd, you know that Neil Armstrong had to land the LEM manually due to an unforeseen series of events and that his heart rate and respiration did not change appreciably as he did so.

Not according to NASA:
During the communications break, the crew saw that their line of approach would take them into a crater the size of a football field covered with large rocks. Armstrong took manual control and flew the LM to a site four miles away and then gently set the LIVI on the lunar surface. When he cut off the descent engine, he had 30 seconds worth of fuel remaining. During this maneuver, Armstrong's heartbeat went from a normal 75 to 150.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:50 PM on October 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ah, misremembery! Thanks for the correction, Brandon!
posted by mwhybark at 4:37 PM on October 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just saw it this morning and really had fun. I tend to dig on competence porn but avoid disaster/man defeats the mountain but loses two companions and three toes in the doing type of stories, so knowing beforehand that I was getting the former and not the latter really helped me. I was so heartened by the lack of villains and the fact that it took teams of people working their butts off to get it all done plus the one resourceful Robinson Crusoe - so often you just get the triumph of the lone wolf guy and nothing else. The fact that the emotional tone of the movie let there be humor leavened into the story was so crucial.

I'm really glad I saw it.
posted by PussKillian at 4:07 PM on November 1, 2015


So I'm reading the book now and uh, yeah. I will refrain from too much criticism and simply say that the prose is workmanlike. But that fact doesn't get in the way of turning it into a great movie. Heck, it may have helped.
posted by PussKillian at 9:32 AM on November 3, 2015


This was...not bad. I didn't read the book and the movie turned out to be a bit lighter than I expected, especially in the fourth-wall'ing of the video diary. I also have to wonder what the type-and-talk was all about, not to mention the coda with the classroom trying for an "A Beautiful Mind" effect or something.

I think the lack of villains is a good point, and even Jeff Daniels' character is only implied to have left/been fired at the end. After the setup I fully expected a "those lame-o hard-asses in DC" political antagonism thing to erupt, but the story winds its way around all that. I'd give it a solid B.
posted by rhizome at 10:40 AM on November 16, 2015




Well, he lives which means it's not a tragedy so maybe it's a comedy in the classical sense.
posted by octothorpe at 4:45 AM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


If we're talking Shakespearean comedy, I think he needs to get married at the end for that. Maybe we can we argue that he symbolically marries the Earth? Hm.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 2:53 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


The category is Musical or Comedy. Given all the 70s disco in it, it's a musical. Obviously.
posted by crossoverman at 3:02 PM on January 11, 2016


Watched with my kids last night. When Mark says the first fuck, one kid says "I thought this wasn't rated R". Having seen "This Film is Not Yet Rated" I explain that a PG 13 film gets to have one, and directors choose carefully when to use it. They think this is funny, and then the second fuck is used, and they're like "what happened, you said only once?" And then they note that shit must be okay.

I liked it, but kept hoping Wilson would show up.

I didn't understand why his food supply was limited to a specific number of SOLs when he had the capacity to grow more potatoes, before his hothouse was ruined. Perhaps that was something better explained in the book as well.
posted by Sukey Says at 3:46 AM on January 17, 2016


He couldn't grow enough calories in a growing cycle to support himself nutritionally for that cycle. The amounts he was producing were just allowing him to stretch out the supplies he had from the mission.
posted by tavella at 12:23 PM on January 17, 2016


My disappointment in this is so palpable and in such a minority that I'm just going to drop a sane review (including the comments) here.

The Martian never quite takes off

Everything in this show has been averaged out by some Disney algorithm to appeal as blandily as possible to the most demographic segments. You have the cutesy soundtrack shit copying Guardians of the Galaxy, the pandering shitty jokes that feel like they break the fourth wall while the back wall has hardly been established; etc. Bleh. This movie is made from the same playbook used by big-budget animation and superhero movies, and I made the mistake of expecting a bit of a character study. (Based on the poster, actually: I thought Damon's character looked a bit addled and out of his depth; looking again, I think I'm just supposed to see a hero.)

I ended an email lamentation about this with: "In mass-appeal movies, every moment is highly calculated to dote on, or suggest, what the audience should value - ruining the individuality of the story."

I guess I wanted more about why he was dipping his potatoes in narcotics.
posted by sylvanshine at 6:48 PM on January 25, 2016


I guess I wanted more about why he was dipping his potatoes in narcotics.

He ran out of ketchup. It was a 150,000,000 mile grocery run to get more ketchup, or try the narcotics. Lighten up.

Much of what you are complaining about in the movie is also there in the book, which was very definitely not corporate or pandering, although there is an amateur element that shines through (but not too badly) despite the pro editing job it got.

For me one of the nicest things about this story getting made into a big-budget movie is that it has no evil in it, no bad guys, no darkness at all. The only enemy is the scale and indifference of the Universe, which is confronted with knowledge, skill, courage, and a bit of that dark humor you sometimes need to summon up the courage. I suspect the total lack of violence is why they were allowed two fucks in a PG-13 flick. I am struggling to think of another movie with so little violence or violent intent.

Damon's character was very obviously addled and out of his depth. He fucking blew himself up like Wile E. Coyote. He flips the rover. He digs up the RTG knowing that's a bad, bad idea. And he knows he is probably going to starve to death no matter what but he goes on anyway, even though he's kicking himself the whole time for being too stupid to just step out of the airlock without his helmet and end it quickly.

Anyway pretty much every moment in the movie was in the book, which was written by a guy who works at a regular job doing tech stuff who just decided to put his story online and see if anyone likes it. There's lots to complain about with the result if you want to get picky but that it is some corporate calculation as to what the opiate of the masses du jour should be shows a profound ignorance of where the movie came from.
posted by Bringer Tom at 7:07 PM on January 25, 2016 [9 favorites]


One man survives in an inhospitable environment by employing the awesome power of human smugness.
posted by Grangousier at 2:54 AM on March 8, 2016 [3 favorites]


I hated this. Terrible, bland, pablum. You could tell it was written by an engineer, and Scott should be deeply ashamed of having filmed it.
posted by codacorolla at 9:23 PM on June 10, 2016


You shoulda read the book! No, wait, maybe strike that, inverse it.
posted by mwhybark at 9:29 PM on June 10, 2016


I saw this last night. It wasn't bad. I liked the relatively good level of diversity, the "science is awesome" vibe, the sight of highly intelligent and well trained people getting on with it, the spectacular visuals. I think I could live quite happily in that HAB on Mars given enough supplies and a few congenial people.

People in this thread complained about the final scenes showing Damon's character teaching a class of new recruits, but I rather liked it, because of his line, "You solve one problem, and then another, and if you solve enough of them you may get to go home alive." As someone who is having rather a hard time and who tends to get overwhelmed and down easily, this is a good, calming mantra. Today I just keep thinking, "I'll solve this problem and then when I'm done I'll solve that problem and then maybe things will get better."
posted by orange swan at 11:28 AM on June 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


"You solve one problem, and then another, and if you solve enough of them you may get to go home alive." As someone who is having rather a hard time and who tends to get overwhelmed and down easily, this is a good, calming mantra.

Yes. I don't know if it's a NASA thing or just something they magicked up for great dialogue in the Apollo 13 movie (they used it in The Martian, too), but I'm a big fan of "work the problem." Don't panic, don't try to guess at a solution to fix everything, just solve one problem at a time. Problems are solvable, panic is not.
posted by phunniemee at 11:33 AM on June 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


I am pretty sure "work the problem" came out of test pilot culture, which of course begat astronaut culture through the Gemini 7. I have found on my own part, not that I do anything like piloting test aircraft, that the idea that I can't afford the luxury of panic is powerfully motivating. It's an idea that works.
posted by Bringer Tom at 7:00 PM on June 20, 2016


Glad that they made movie-Watney quite a lot less dude-bro than book-Watney.

I said that in the book, he almost dies a few more times.

...and that was my problem with the movie, I think. The book really makes it feel like Watney is surviving on the knife-edge, in an unforgiving environment that can kill him at any moment because of either a mistake or sheer bad luck; and that the hacks he's doing to survive are incredibly risky. The movie cuts out most of those oops-nearly-died moments -- really the only moments of peril are the hab airlock blowout and the tarp coming off the MAV. The result is that for most of the midsection of the movie Watney comes across as too hyper-competent; not putting him in any additional peril along the way makes him feel too plot-armored.

I felt the book -- for all its flaws -- was better at showing both the "he is having to make an engineering decision that may cost him his life" moments -- ISTR it takes several chapters simply to work out how many solar panels he needs to keep him and the rover alive and how to carry them on the rover -- and the "oh shit, he is really fucked now, how does he get out of this one" accidents.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:25 PM on June 29, 2016


An Alarming Number Of People Think “The Martian” Is A True Story

While that is ridiculous, it struck me a few times while watching that they shot the movie as if it were based on a true story. It sounds like a Colbert line, but they made it "feel" true in a way that other movies don't. The combination of scientific detail, lack of villains, and little things like how they introduced people by name on screen made it seem more like the story of Mark Watney and less like pure fiction.

Even having big name actors with not much to do helped in a way. As if this were such an important story they wanted to be involved. I'm not sure it was intended that way, but it worked for me.
posted by Gary at 12:42 AM on September 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


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