by Heinrich Domingo
The Martian boldly narrates the cliché tale of a survivor. With only science fiction as its armor, it courageously delivers science into the center stage without the fear of losing its plebeian audience. The movie tries hard not to fall into the hype built by its predecessors, Gravity and Interstellar – the two choosing to be emotionally and philosophically grounded. Rather, it faces the reality that science can be tedious, boring, and disappointing. In the end, it got its reward as viewers take notice on how hard facts and technicalities can be entertaining as well.
Matt Damon (playing Mark Watney) delivers us a death-defying, heart-pounding, and tear-inducing journey of an astronaut who was left behind by his crew on a planet that is not capable of life. Viewers witness both the agony and excitement of a surviving man and a consequent rescue operation. As Damon explores the science behind Martian survival, he engages the viewers with tidbits of botany, chemistry, physics, and all other interesting science stuff.
Behind the adrenaline rush, moviegoers are also presented with the politics of scientific community. Laid in front of us are issues of power relations inside organizations such as NASA. Who decides on space missions? Up to what amount of information can the public possess? How do financial constraints affect science missions? The film initiates a discourse on issues that can be easily dismissed in other science fictions.
Also, the film made a timely release as it coincides with NASA’s confirmation of evidence of water flow on Mars. The public hype on this relatively near yet unfamiliar planet brings added interest to watch the film. Whether a public stunt, or a plain serendipity, it is no doubt that The Martian gained advantage from its release date.
The boring landscape of the red planet was turned into an avenue of scientific creativity and discoveries. Set in the backdrop of the vast lifeless ground is an exciting story about to unfold. This can be credited to the team behind the visual editing. They did not only create an environment necessary for the development of the plot but they built an artwork that visually satisfies the cinemagoers. Craters of all sizes, unstable weather, and desert-like soil were all simulations but they seemed real in the perception of viewers.
The Martian is laudable for its consistency. From beginning to end, the film continued to narrate its story with nothing but science. Although humor is injected in few instances, the story was not compromised. The storyline was patient in bringing a stereotypically difficult field to the common crowd. In the end, astronaut Mark Watney finds his home through relying greatly on the power of science. It is not that this movie plays above its predecessor. It is only that it is commendable for choosing the difficult path of delivering science to the common crowd.