In recent news, NASA released images which near enough prove previous theories stating that there is running water on Mars. NASA have also revealed rough plans to man a mission to Mars by 2030. With the red planet once again dominating the astronomical world and consequently the international media, it’s fair to say that my inner science geek has creeped out and my interest in all things space related has peaked (again).
With this in mind – and having taken a highly praised recommendation by one of my flatmates into consideration – I proposed a miniature flat outing to the cinema to watch the latest Mars-themed film: The Martian.
Adapted from the 2011 novel by Andy Weir, the film encapsulates the peril of Mark Watney after his crew members abandon NASA’s Ares 3 mission (and him) at the fault of a huge Martian storm with potentially fatal consequences. In the early stages of the storm, Watney was hit by debris and knocked out of sight from his crew, thus forcing them to choose between saving themselves or saving him. Common sense told them that he was more than likely dead after being impaled by satellite debris, and risking their own lives searching for a dead man would – harshly but honestly – prove to be fruitless. So the crew reluctantly abandon Watney and set course for Earth, completely unaware that their botanist and medical engineer crew mate is, still in fact, alive.
Watney, played by Matt Damon, is awoken by the sound of his oxygen monitor alerting him that levels are critical within his EVA suit. Rather luckily for him, the storm/debris had knocked him back to right outside The Hab (the living quarters for those on the Ares 3 mission). After stumbling to The Hab, removing his EVA suit and stapling together his open abdominal wound caused by the satellite, Watney is forced to accept the reality that he is now completely alone on an inhospitable planet with no contact to NASA and nowhere near enough food supplies to last him four years until the next Ares mission.
At this stage, most people would accept the fact that they’re going to die. But not Watney. The botanist tenaciously sets about planning his survival. He derives a plan to grow fresh food on a planet where nothing grows. Using only a packet of potatoes found in The Hab’s limited food stocks, combined with his own faecal matter, Watney was able to grow and effectively colonise the Earth’s red neighbour.
Combined with his extensive scientific knowledge and space training, Watney was able to locate a Pathfinder launched to Mars from the previous decade and consequently make contact with Earth. Naturally, the people of NASA were dumbfounded to find out that their astronaut was alive, and soon set about hatching a complex plan to supply him with food and effectively ensure as much safety as possible until they could bring him home with the Ares 4 mission four years later.
As with all great drama’s, this plan failed and therefore resulted in a panicked rush to figure out a second method to bring Watney home. This included turning the Ares 3 crew around and effectively picking up Watney without actually touching the surface of Mars. As you can probably gauge, that plan wasn’t executed quite as smoothly as NASA had hoped, but that’s not to say it failed entirely. I don’t want to give any more of the plot away, so I suggest if you want to find out whether Mark Watney made it back to Earth in one piece, then you should probably watch the film or read the book.
I’m yet to read the book, although I am told by my flatmate (who read the book and recommended the film later on) that a lot of the content from the book is cut out in the film. That’s rather hard to imagine considering that the run time for the film totals over 140 minutes, which resulted in slight boredom and a rather numb bum on my part.
Whilst I understand that the film has to follow the book roughly, I couldn’t help but feel that there were too many setbacks. It seemed as though it was one problem after another with no break. I appreciate that being the only person stranded on an inhospitable planet with limited contact to Earth might propose a few hiccups here and there, but it got to a point where if i were Watney, I would’ve eventually bit the bullet and taken a ‘f*ck it, it’s easier to just die’ attitude. You have to admit, it’d be quite something to be the first person to die on Mars.
Despite it’s faults, the film did have a fairly large impact on the way I view myself. I can honestly say that I have never been made to feel as insignificant and as worthless as I did when I left the cinema after this movie. I’m never going to make an impact in this life, I’m never going to be the person that’s smart enough to grow potatoes using Mars mud. I’m never going to be ballsy enough to get in a rocket and explore the unknown. So even though I’m paying £9,000 a year to get a degree and to make myself less worthless, I’m still pretty useless and will probably die having achieved hardly anything. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing that this film made me feel this way, but it certainly made me question my existence.
To conclude, The Martian was a mediocre film with a humorous and credible performance by Matt Damon and co, with impressive graphics (although the 3D was blurry throughout), but if you’re on the verge of having an existential crisis or you don’t particularly like being sat in one place for too long, then don’t bother watching this film. It’ll tip you over the edge.
Featured image: Jenska