The Martian, I can safely say, satisfied a hunger in me that I have had for some time. I long for films and shows when space travel and exploration was seen as something good and to strive for regardless of the danger. The Martian, following astronaut Mark Watney as he is left stranded on the surface of Mars, deals with powerful thematic elements such as survival in the face of incredible odds and the perseverance to tread on even when it seems all hope is lost.
Without spoiling anything not known from the trailer, The Martian follows Mark Watney, a astronaut/botanist, who is accidentally left for dead on the surface of Mars after a sandstorm forces the rest of the astronaut team to prematurely begin their long journey home. Watney, played by Matt Damon, is forced to realize that he will have to survive on Mars with nothing but what supplies were left behind and his intelligence to make it through his ordeal. Knowing that another manned Mars mission will be coming in a few years, he begins the long process of setting up a suitable camp and finding ways to keep himself alive, which due to his exceptional botany skills, meant making a makeshift garden using Martian soil. The rest of the movie follows Watney’s struggle to stay alive but also NASA’s job of finding a suitable way to rescue him with their limited time frame.
I found this film to be both funny, due to Damon’s character always finding ways to make a situation humorous, but also very intense due to the massive odds stacked against him. One criticism that could be laid against the realism of this film is how Watney doesn’t appear to be suffering from any sort of mental breakdown from both the stress and loneliness. However, I saw this as a testament to Watney’s abilities and perseverance. He doesn’t let the gravity of his situation break him. He faces it head-on with zeal and shows Mars that he will survive…as humorously indicated by the credit’s song.
Another commendable aspect of The Martian is how space exploration is always seen as a good thing. To explore the unknown without fear and with a positive attitude is something that child in all of us wants to believe in and this film hit that point hard. Several times, the NASA officials are afraid to reveal information regarding Watney’s situation, due to the possibility of losing hope and therefore public support, but each time, they overcome their fear and in kind, everyone overcomes their own fears in order to do the right thing.
The Martian presents a powerful story depicting how fear should not factor into how we explore. Humanity’s efforts into space exploration has always been a prerogative of going where no one has gone before. In order to understand the positive aspects and optimistic feel of The Martian, I urge those who view this film to remember the words of John F. Kennedy in his famous 1962 Moon Speech: “Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, “Because it is there.” Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.”
Did you catch The Martian opening weekend? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.