Silver Screen Resolution: The Martian

A quick reminder of how it came to this:

This year, I’ve resolved to see twelve new-to-me spec fic movies in a no-doubt vain attempt at catching up with popular culture.  One movie per month, the results of watching said movie discussed at the beginning of the next month.  Do you all have any idea how many awesome-sounding spec fic movies there are now?  Of course, you do.  You’ve been watching them!  Me, I’m spoiled for choice at this point. So I made myself some rules.

  1. It must be spec-fic. For review here on Spec-Chic and for myself. I just prefer it.  Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror. Even kid’s movies if they fit one of those genres!
  2. For the most part, the movie must be popular spec-fic.  Something people around me have been talking about.
  3. I have to see at least a third of them in the theater, for the truest “in the moment” connection.

I started with The Martian.

Why I chose it: Because literally everyone I know has recommended it to me.  Because my city actually had Andy Weir’s The Martian as our Read Across Lawrence book. Because in theory, it’s a movie I should really like — sensible people reacting to impossible circumstances with intelligence and grace and science.

Why I didn’t go see it originally: Matt Damon. He’s a fine actor, and I promise I’m not holding The Talented Mr. Ripley against him.  I just have a hard time paying attention to him. I watched the Bourne Identity and it was a ridiculous exercise in cinematic Where’s Waldo? It’s very hard to invest in a movie when you can’t tell which actor running around on the screen is the protagonist.

What I thought now that I’ve seen it: (spoilers below!)

I mostly enjoyed it.  The biggest flaw for me is that I’m a character junkie.  I love characters interacting with each other. So… you can see my issue.  A lot of this plot is a man and his potatoes, which made it hard for me to stay invested.  I didn’t actually get hooked until the Pathfinder was used to open communication.

The other thing that weirdly didn’t quite work for me? Mars. I don’t know why — maybe I’ve just seen too many desert settings filling in for Mars.  Maybe because the movie was so long and the director jumped from scene to scene so that a lot of the day-to-day nitty-gritty living on Mars got lost. Until Watney started the drive to Schiaparelli Crater, I just didn’t feel Mars. I love movies in strange settings because of the strange — Whiteout was a great movie for me because of that. I really got the sense of what living in Antarctica could be like. How living in a landscape that was unremittingly hostile to human life would be.

And weirdly, The Martian story beats felt a little off.  A lot of montages sort of kept sucking the momentum away for me.

What I really liked about this movie? The characters. I loved the NASA people — they all felt very real, and I loved science being the bridge between NASA and CNSA. I particularly loved Vincent Kapoor and Mindy Park. I loved Bruce. I loved everything set on the Hermes. And the ending was a nail biter! Until the epilogue.

So, in the end, I’m really glad I saw it.  Guess what, everybody wasn’t wrong!  For once a movie mostly lived up to the hype!


  • Shara White March 2, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    Lane, have you read the book? I was surprised how engaging the book was, because I thought I would be bored as hell, but I wasn’t. I enjoyed the movie, but I can see how the lack of character interaction would be a miss.

    • Lane Robins March 2, 2017 at 2:16 pm

      Nope. I own the book. It’s sitting in my desk at work, but… I just kept bouncing off of it. Admittedly, I haven’t really sat down and focused on it.

      • Shara White March 2, 2017 at 10:45 pm

        Fair enough. I’ve got lots of books like that!


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