Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Martian (USA, 2015)

Nine Things About the Film The Martian



1. This is probably the science fiction film with the most actual science that I've ever seen.

2. Based on a book by the same name, it's about a crew exploring Mars. When a huge dust storm hits, one of the crew members, Mark, is punched in the gut by piece of equipment and the crew leaves him for dead. Of course, he's not dead.

3. The movie goes back and forth between Mark's efforts to survive on Mars, and NASA's efforts to save him - and everybody can only use science and math. That's it. That's the whole plot. There's no violence, or aliens, or space battles (although technically there is one space pirate).

4. NASA consulted closely on this film to make it as accurate as possible, including the surface of Mars. So it's also kind of a commercial for NASA. But that's OK. Anything that encourages scientific education is fine with me.

5. There are two big scientific inaccuracies in the film - a storm on Mars couldn't be that strong, and the lack of atmosphere means Mark would have died of cancer. Additionally, I'm personally really suspicious of the "Iron Man maneuver". However, I think these are acceptable fudges, because they make the movie possible, and it is worth being made. The really cool things Mark does are basically real, even the way he makes water.

6. It's nice to see an accurate portrayal of a mission like this, that relies on the delicate interplay of many different specialties, such as physics, chemistry, botany, and math. Nobody gets to be a superhero, but anybody can cause a mission to fail.

7. The cast is not only talented, but diverse. It's really great to see males and females of various races all being smart together. It's a subtle message that subjects in science, math, and engineering are for anyone who wants to study them (by the way, am I the only person that thinks Donald Glover is a really good actor and deserves much bigger roles than what he gets?).

8. Director Ridley Scott said he thinks the theme of the movie is that nobody is really alone. Which is funny, because I saw the exact opposite theme.

9. This movie is a rarity in Hollywood - it's entertainment mixed with actual learning. If you need action, or flashy special effects and interstellar drama, you're going to be disappointed. But with a story this compelling and realistic, I wouldn't be surprised to see a boost in science and math majors as a result of this movie.