Sci-fi takes turn into humor

New film filled with quality science, comedy

MATT DAMON STARS as Mark Watney, the stranded scientist, in the sci-fi adaptation of The Martian.

Leave it to NASA to pull something like this. Seriously, they discover liquid water on Mars and less than a week later they’ve already got a guy stranded up there. I mean how does that even happen?

Everyone around me is saying “bring him home!” but I have my doubts. I saw Interstellar a few months ago, and I’m pretty sure this is not the guy we want to be bringing home. It’s Dr. Mann! He was evil in Interstellar! Doesn’t anyone remember that he tried to kill Cooper?

All jokes aside, I was psyched to see The Martian. I had read the book over the summer and it was 370 pages of nerdy humor, which I loved. I was excited to see how a book described as “that scene from Apollo 13 where they have to fit a square air filter in a round hole” would transition to the screen.

My first impression of the film was that it was absolutely, stunningly beautiful. Whoever was in charge of the sets, graphics, and special effects hit this one out of the park. Mars itself was wonderful and terrifying, perfect for an alien planet. The Mars Ascent Vehicle and the Habitation Module were both everything I could want in a Martian home. I had these impressions throughout the entire movie and was always looking forward to the next piece of space-age tech they would show off.

I thought that the movie was well cast, despite Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain playing similar roles in another recent space movie. Jeff Daniels portrayed NASA chief quite well, always visibly struggling with science versus public image. I felt that the dynamic of the Ares 3 crew was great, combining the humor of Rick Martinez, played by Michael Peña, and the military stoicism of Melissa Lewis, played by Chastain. Damon did a superb job becoming the character of Mark Watney, combining his technical know-how with a stick-it-to-the-man attitude necessary to survive alone on a hostile alien planet.

I was also pleased with how they handled explaining his process. The movie could very easily have been Damon monologuing over clips of him working, which would have led to an extremely boring movie. Instead, Ridley Scott sparingly used monologues and, to the delight of high school English teachers around the world, showed the work instead of telling us about it.

I only truly have two complaints about this film. The first is that I would have liked to see a bit more science being done. The entire premise is that Watney needs to “science the shit out of it” to survive, and yet the actual science was only lightly touched on. I get that a big budget film can’t go deep into the science of taking fecal matter and using it to sustain life, but I was left wanting more.

Small spoiler alert warning before you read on. The fact that the romance between Chris Beck and Beth Johanson was thrown in the last ten minutes of the movie appalled me. Yes, it was mentioned in the book, but up until that point there was absolutely no context at all for their relationship. The entire romance was literally a kiss on the helmet of Beck’s spacesuit. I’m already not a fan of throwing in unneeded romance to appeal to certain crowds, but this was just bad. I would have cut it completely.

Would I recommend The Martian? Yes, I definitely would. I would tell you to watch this movie and then, if you enjoyed the technical science and space exploration, I would strongly encourage you to read the book by Andy Weir. For a two hour movie, I thought they covered everything quite well, and it turned into a great film. However, for those craving the science, I recommend you pick up the book.