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The Martian

"I'm gonna have to science the shit out of this."

While I was moving three thousand miles from one side of the United States to the other last year, I discovered a novel called The Martian and read it on my Kindle at night in our motel room. I had to review it. It was one of the best novels I'd read in years. It's that good.

And now I feel the same way about the movie.

The Martian, book and movie, is about an astronaut named Mark Watney who is presumed dead during the U.S.'s third Mars mission and is left behind alone, with a habitat and a limited amount of food that won't keep him alive anywhere near long enough for rescue. Watney, a botanist, throws himself into working the survival problem with McGyver-like ingenuity and a wonderful sense of humor.

This movie is as good as it can possibly be, reminding me of excellent and realistic space films like Apollo 13 and Gravity. The visuals are so believable that it feels like Ridley Scott went out and shot this movie on Mars, but the story of Watney's plight is always front and center.

Scott not only hired a bunch of excellent actors, he gave them a whole lot of wonderful stuff to do. I've never been much of a fan of Matt Damon, but he was terrific, much better in the lead role than I expected. Nearly every supporting character had a chance to shine, too. I especially enjoyed Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean and Chiwetel Ejiofor as NASA guys, as well as the entire crew of the Hermes. And how clever that we first get to know the Hermes crew when Watney uses their personal things left behind in the habitat. Especially Captain Lewis' disco collection.

One of the best things about Apollo 13 was the parallel scenes of the flight crew and the ground crew determinedly working one problem after another; The Martian does much the same thing with much different problems. This movie champions the power of science and human ingenuity, as well as the extreme limits of what you can do with duct tape. But even though The Martian spoke to the geek in me in a great big way, I think nearly everyone would enjoy this movie. It's about strength and courage, the human spirit, the emotional cost of extreme isolation. And it was much less of a nerdfest than the book, although that's not a fault. Moving a first person stream of consciousness narrative to the screen isn't as easy as one might think, and the few changes that Ridley Scott made to Andy Weir's book were appropriate in order to translate the story to another medium.

One more thing. If you're a fan of the TV show Community, Donald Glover has a small but crucial role as a lower level brilliant NASA geek who comes up with a special solution to a particular problem and demonstrates it to the head of NASA (Jeff Daniels) with a stapler. Very funny. I also particularly loved the meta Lord of the Rings joke, the ABBA album, the use of David Bowie's song 'Starman', and the ketchup. And the Iron Man joke. Loved the Iron Man joke.

So I guess what I'm saying is, don't miss this one. Go see this movie. It's terrific.

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. Billie,

    I wholeheartedly agree. I went to see this with my 14 yr old on Saturday. It was a dreary rainy Saturday the kind where you want to stay home. I'm glad that we didn't. I loved so much about the movie. I haven't read the novel, but I plan to. The music fit and as a child of the 70s and 80s I found myself singing along. Best soundtrack since Chef and Guardians of the Galaxy. Plus, loved Donald Glover, Sean Bean, and of course Matt Damon. It was a stellar performance for Damon. Ridley Scott did a really good job here.

  2. Saw it last night. LOVED it. Best movie Ridley Scott's had for awhile now. Now I'll have to get around to reading the book sometime.

  3. The Martian is the best book that I've read in a long, long time. After I finished it for the first time, I closed it, then opened the first page and started reading again - it's THAT good. I went to see the movie expecting to be disappointed, and I of course was - but less than I thought I was going to be.

    There are two main reasons I love the book so much: one, an excellent main character, who ended up to be my first literary crush since my teen years. And two, the depth of the scientific explanations and the MacGyvering, which I haven't found in any other book before or since. Mr. Damon was an excellent lead and he brought Mark Watney alive for me, so kudos to him. I also loved the visuals, and the rest of the crew (who were a bit bland in the book) were interesting and enjoyable individuals as well. However, I was certainly disappointed about point two! Now, I get that they had to make the movie appealing for everyone who is not a science geek - but why, oh why did they have to leave out most of the space Robinson Crusoeing and significantly water down the rest?

    I guess it's an impossible task to satisfy a book fan, eh? :)

  4. It is hard to find science fiction books these days that make me as happy as this one did. I grew up with Robert Heinlein' s books and this reminds me of them. The movie was great and reminded me of Apollo 13. I loved the disco music, it made the movie that much more fun. Science fiction writers used to write books about the perils of colonizing or visiting other planets. I wish they still did.

  5. I really loved this, much more than I thought I would. I may have cried at the beginning and the end, despite having read the book and knowing exactly what would happen.

    I think the Iron Man joke actually counts as meta, too, since Sebastian Stan is in this! Maybe he's the Sean Bean of my generation: he's just in everything. Not often dead, but we'll give him time.


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