Director: Ridley Scott
Writer: Drew Goddard, based on the novel "The Martian" by Andy Weir
Cinematography: Dariusz Wolski
by Jon Cvack
Having not seen a trailer or read a thing, I wasn’t very sure what to expect going into this film, taking it a bit too literally, assuming something about extraterrestrials, until I came across a meme about how often Matt Damon is rescued in blockbuster films.
The cast is incredible, especially Jeff Daniels who plays Teddy Sanders, the Head of NASA, and ostensibly the new job for The Newsroom’s Will McAvoy. Teddy’s ability to remain pragmatic and loyal, no matter how heartless or annoying his decisions play out, is one of my favorite characters of recent times. He’s smart, sharp, and demands the best, having solid logic behind each decision, earning the respect of everyone around him.
I came across an interview with writer Andy Weir, whose story about how he got his novel "The Martian" out there is one of the finest – and to struggling writers everywhere, equally frustrating and inspiring – in that he self-published the book from his blog that featured short science fiction. His genius strategy for the story was to explain how things were going to work in ‘painstaking detail’ so that when they went wrong it’d provide a more substantial ‘oh shit!’ reaction (his words), no matter the vast logic and planning. I admired the story’s ability to think forward, in which the whole narrative is essentially watching very smart and passionate people solve complex problems. Of course, there are many happy accidents, which I have to assume Weir considered; namely, the potatoes that were randomly brought aboard, the fact that they landed near Curiosity, and the fact that one of the crew just happened to have an ASCII chart in their luggage.
Regardless of his last point, one of my favorite – and most confusing - moments was when they had to discover how to use the ASCII alphabet in order to communicate with Curiosity’s Camera. However, I still don’t understand how that subsequently allowed them to chat with one another near instantaneously, when they could have just tapped into the rover to begin with (I assume it would have been annoying to maintain this grueling level of communication, so perhaps it's forgivable; if not, I'd love to know what I'm missing). Nevertheless, it’s a thrilling scene to watch as we learn that navigating a traditional alphabet would be too difficult given the degrees of separation between 26 letters positioned in a circular pattern.
Unfortunately, the moment that really didn’t work for me was when Matt Damon had to link up with the shuttle. I don’t know much about space, but I do know that you don’t need constant thrust when traveling through it, since the lack of friction could allow you to keep going at a constant speed. Matt Damon seems to know this fact, but yet when he decides to fly over to Jessica Chastain he lets the hole in his suit blast wildly, forcing him to tumble in any and all directions – even though he had control over the hole. Could’ve been better if they called Alfonso Cuaron in for this sequence, but I can look past it.
Overall, I admired the film’s ability to inspire. By the end I was wondering if it was too late for me to enter into mathematics, astrophysics, the air force, or compute programming and work toward getting us to Mars. I imagined how amazing it must felt to work for an organization that’s dedicated to exploration and adventure. To be able to lend your mind and work with thousands of others in advancing technology and progressing us forward. When I left the theater I thought my pursuit toward entertainment was so insignificant by comparison. But then I realized Ridley Scott just made a movie that produced all these feelings to begin with, so maybe the mission is o one day help tell a story that can continue to inspire our future scientists.
BELOW: High School kids recreate the ASCII sequence, proving its viability
Thoughts on films, old and new
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