Movie Review – The Martian

Ever since Gravity (which I didn’t watch) came out in theaters a couple of years ago, everyone has been hopping onto the whole lost-in-space theme. After Gravity came Interstellar, which was a good film but pretty confusing to an average person like me, no thanks to its very scienc-y content : black holes, wormholes, theory of relativity, space-time… all that good stuff.

I guess there’s something about exploring space – uncharted waters – that has always fascinated explorers and people alike. In the old days, there were lots of places to explore on the planet; blank spaces on the map to fill in. Now that every inch of the earth has virtually been mapped, mankind will naturally look towards space as the final frontier.

A premise used in The Martian.

Based on a book by Andy Weirs, the film talks about how man has finally landed on Mars. 

But when the shit goes down and one of the crew is left behind, millions of miles away from home, will the world risk everything to bring back a single astronaut – whose chances of surviving on an alien planet seem close to zero?


The Ares III, a manned mission to Mars, is hit by a strong storm while its crew members are out collecting soil samples. As they attempt to return to the ship, astronaut and resident botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is hit by debris and presumed dead. With the ship in danger of tipping over, the crew reluctantly leave the planet and Watney behind.

Later, we find Watney half-buried in sand, pierced by a piece of metal (which fortunately, sealed his suit breach and retained his oxygen). Staggering back to The Hab, a circular tent cum living quarters/command center, Watney finds that his communications unit is busted. He performs surgery on himself, then sets about making the place habitable and to grow food until the next manned mission arrives (in four years).

The odds are stacked against him. He only has a couple of potatoes to start off with, and whatever the Hab provides, which is only made to last for 31 days. As he aptly puts it, “I’m going to have to science the shit out of this.”

Meanwhile, back on Earth, NASA finds out that Watney is alive, thanks to satellite photos. They finally establish communication through a Pathfinder unit left on Mars, and attempt to send him a supply cache. Not wanting to endanger the rest of the crew, NASA command decides not to tell the crew of the Ares III that Watney is alive. However, in their hurry to send the cache out in time, it explodes. Simultaneously, Watney’s crops die as a result of an accidental explosion.

With no other choice, NASA tells the crew, and decide to launch a new supply cache which would be intercepted by the ship just before entering Earth’s orbit. They would then fly back to Mars at top speed to fetch their boy Mark Watney. The problem is, they couldn’t land as there wouldn’t be enough fuel to get the back to Earth – so Watney has to find a way to get to them in space. Rations are running out, and an increasingly weak Watney must now travel thousands of kilometres to the landing point of the next manned mission, where he would use the base of Ares IV to propel into the atmosphere.


Photo credit: Fox Movies

Ridley Scott (of Alien/Prometheus fame) helms the film as director, and he’s certainly no green horn when it comes to directing science fiction films.

The Martian is beautifully depicted, with sweeping landscapes of towering red mountains and vast, dry deserts that evoke a sense of loneliness. The viewers are put into Watney’s shoes, imagining how it must feel to be left behind on a strange, distant planet with help lying millions of miles away. We felt sympathetic when he tries so hard to survive and things go awry. Yet, the character keeps going after each obstacle, devising solutions to stay alive, when a weaker person would have sat down and given in to fate.

Pacing was slow at some points, and there were parts that defied logic even for a non-sciency person like me (like when he propels into space without the shuttle’s nose: does the atmosphere not burn everything to a crisp?) But hey, growing potatoes on Martian soil with human shit as fertilizer seems pretty impossible to begin with.

Reviews on the Net are very positive, but I wouldn’t call it my favourite sci-fi film.  All in all, The Martian is a very enjoyable science fiction film with strong survivalist themes of ‘never giving up’, and the spirit of humanity to help a fellow man (the world watches with bated breath to bring Watney home).


*There’s a funny meme floating out there about saving Matt Damon – because he keeps playing these characters where he has to be saved (Interstellar, Saving Private Ryan, now The Martian). I hope it doesn’t become a pattern with him.. like how Sean Bean is always associated with dying 😀 



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