The Martian (Ridley Scott, 2015)

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The Martian, directed by Ridley Scott (2015).

Score: what science-fiction is made of.

What made me want to watch this movie is that it’s really hard science-fiction. And it delivered. Everything that happens in this movie could happen in real life, if only more money was devoted to research and enough time had passed. This is not an adventure film, nor a thriller. No surprises here, it’s exactly what it says on the tin: it’s a movie about human ingenuity overcoming a hostile environment. It’s not about love, it’s not about loyalty, at most it’s a love letter to science. If you’re not interested in engineering at all, this movie is not for you.

During the Ares 3 expedition to Mars, a sandstorm forces the team of six astronauts to leave Mark Watney for dead. Against all odds, Watney survives and finds himself stranded on Mars. The movie follows Watney’s efforts to survive and have the NASA know that he is still alive.

It reminded me a lot of Carl Sagan. I think he would have loved this movie, it has the combination of scientific exactitude, sense of wonder and desire for exploration that he loved in science fiction. I’m convinced a couple of decades from now this movie will have created astronauts and researchers. Aside from the realism, the technical aspects are brilliant. Just about nothing feels fake or out of place here.

It has less time to give technical details than the book, for obvious reasons. While the book has pages over pages and internal monologue to expose Watney’s train of thought, the film’s visual medium forces Scott to shorten the process of discovery and makes him phrase his thoughts aloud. Any more detail would have been tedious, so read the book if you want to know more.

I’m not a big fan of Matt Damon but he does more than well, even bearing in mind he has most of the screentime. It has a nice, diverse coral cast of characters: five women and about a dozen of men, five people of colour and another dozen caucasians, not counting the whole Chinese National Space Administration. Not perfect, but better than most films that come out every day.

Do you enjoy hard science fiction? If the answer is “yes”, what are you waiting for?

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