The Martian is a film where Matt Damon’s character Mark Watney gets stranded on Mars. Mark is part of a manned mission to Mars, and in the opening scene Mark’s crew mistakenly believe Mark has died in a sandstorm. The crew leaves Mars and heads back to Earth in their ship, called the Hermes, not realizing Mark has survived. Frequently throughout the film Mark records video logs explaining his situation. It would take four years for a ship from Earth to come to Mars and rescue him.
The first part of the film focuses on his basic survival. He manages to produce water, and grows potatoes using his own feces as fertilizer. Despite the harrowing circumstances, Mark in the first act seems to solve his immediate problems with ease. Things start to go wrong later in the film, bringing some tension in as he struggles to survive. Meanwhile back on Earth, NASA learns that he is alive and struggles to figure a way to both keep him alive and rescue him. Various characters are introduced throughout the course of the narrative offering solutions to the various problems that come up. The Chinese Space program ends up giving some assistance, marking the first time in modern American cinema the Chinese have come to save the day.
Ultimately Mark’s crew decides to disobey NASA and rescue Mark themselves. The situation of the crew of the Hermes in a way was more interesting to me than Mark’s. We get some lip service on what they are risking, court martial, never being sent in space again, and additional time for this mission that will keep them from their families. However the crew decides to help Mark with no hesitation.
Tense moments aside there is room for some humor as Mark jests about his situation, as well as other small anecdotes such as how the only music he has to listen to is his crew mates 1970s disco collection.
The final two acts provide a lot of tension as various things go wrong right up to the very end. The Martian tells a very satisfying story. Although I do enjoy the action/franchise oriented films of our day, The Martian is a breath of fresh air that tells a pure science fiction story for our time.