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Movie Review: The Martian “Bring Him Home”

I stand beside the rather large promotional cutout for The Martian

Ryan Bond, Linganore High School

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Space: the final frontier. Wait, that’s not right. That’s Star Trek. While Captain Picard and his crew are off exploring the vast corners of the known universe, astronaut and botanist Mark Watney is stuck on Mars, fending for himself in the vastly deserted wasteland of the Red Planet.

Twentieth Century Fox’s newest film, The Martian starring Matt Damon (Rated Pg-13), made its debut in theaters on October 2. I finally got to see the film, and it certainly met my expectations.

Ridley Scott‘s adaptation of Andy Weir‘s novel of the same title tells the story of Mark Watney (Matt Damon), the resident botanist on a team of researchers sent to space as part of the Ares III manned mission to Mars. The mission of the Ares III is to retrieve samples from the surface of Mars for NASA to investigate.

About two-thirds of the way through their month-long mission, a massive dust storm hits the HAB, the team’s base, and forces the team to abandon the mission. During the evacuation, however, Watney is struck by flying debris and is thought to be dead. Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain), attempts to find Watney but to no avail, and the team evacuates to the Hermes, the station orbiting Mars.

Now stranded on one of the most desolate planets in the solar system, Watney must use his wits and extensive botany expertise to survive. Throughout the movie, to stay sane, Watney keeps a video diary using the various cameras placed throughout the HAB.
Back on Earth, news of Watney’s survival travels fast, and with the whole world watching, it’s up to NASA and the crew of Ares III to hatch a plan to “Bring Him Home.”

The Martian was directed by critically acclaimed director Ridley Scott, whose more notable works include his role as director for the original Alien, Blade Runner, and more recently, Prometheus. The Martian is no exception to Scott’s great works, wasting no time getting straight into the action and telling Watney’s story of survival.

Damon does an amazing job of capturing Watney’s personality and sense of humor. Watney also has an atmosphere of sarcasm, which Damon portrays to a tee. This film is somewhat of a step down from Damon’s previous action roles, but Damon hits the mark nonetheless.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the website devoted to movie reviews and news, The Martian stands at a 93% on the “tomatometer” and has an audience review of 94%. ”

The combination of Damon and Ridley makes for an unforgettable experience.
The hype for The Martian can also be attributed to its scientific accuracy;
considering that Watney is in the HAB, which was designed for enough oxygen for six people for thirty days, he would technically only have enough to survive for 180 days. It’s pretty safe to assume that NASA would provide a cushion of air just in case of emergencies, but the debate is still open on that matter.

Watney is a botanist, which the film does portray very accurately. He plants potatoes using Mars soil, and uses his own waste as fertilizer, both of which have been proven to work extremely well (even if the harvesting process doesn’t exactly smell the greatest.)
In a way, The Martian does well with its scientific portrayal of interplanetary travel. At the same time, the movie also tends to pull on a viewer’s suspension of disbelief a bit. Either way, The Martian can be forgiven for potential inaccuracies due to the fact that the movie is absolutely gorgeous, and works hard to keep your attention.

Interestingly enough, Weir’s original novel was just a few chapters published on a personal blog.

Upon doing some research, I found out that–with a large fan base behind him– his first “publishing” was posting a compilation of all the chapters on Amazon, and making them all available for only $0.99. After that, those who bought the book flooded Weir with suggestions and corrections to further improve his novel’s scientific accuracy.
Of course, it’s currently a bit more expensive than that, but it’s initial popularity is what gave Weir the publicity he needed. It skyrocketed in popularity soon afterwards, hitting the #1 spot in Amazon’s sci-fi novel list.
Soon after, a publishing deal with Random House came through, and Twentieth Century Fox was asking for the movie rights, both within the same week.

Since the movie is a adaptation of Weir’s novel, it’s normal to assume that “The book is better than the movie,” as most people say.
Having read the book prior to viewing the film, I can say that the previous statement is, of course, true.

Because the movie is only a little over two hours, it would be near impossible to fit every single detail from the book into the movie. However, the film’s screenwriter, Drew Goddard, does an amazing job of keeping key events from the novel in the film, which work to tell the story in the best way possible.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the website devoted to movie reviews and news, The Martian stands at a 93% on the “tomatometer” and has an audience review of 94%.

As of October 25, The Martian has more than tripled its $108 million production budget, pulling in around half of that domestically, according to Box Office Mojo. It also took first place in its first two weeks of release, declining in gross and dropping to second place in the weekend of October 18.

The movie has also had a very large foreign release, doing even better than its domestic release; South Korea, The United Kingdom, and Australia top the charts.
In conclusion: Go see this movie. I highly recommend seeing it. I give it a personal score of 9/10, only hindered from a perfect score for me being somewhat biased for having read the book first. For those who enjoy a great science-fiction flick, and for those whose interests list is topped by astronomy (and perhaps botany), this film will not disappoint.

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