A Spoil free, but possibly punful preview of
Journey to Mars, The Red Planet, Apollo 42, the Martian
I’m Lost, I’m known by some, and annoying to most others. I’m a semi-competent engineer, and I follow NASA like my ex followed me before the restraining order. I’d like to think I know a thing or two about engineering, technology, inhuman persistence, and sci-fi. The Martian delivers like Andy Weir delivers snark.
Sorry I need to interrupt this preview to quote Weir. ““As with most of life’s problems, this one can be solved by a box of pure radiation.”
Ok, I’m back to the article.
Through some nefarious evil plan hatched in the super-secret evil lair of vile evilness, I managed to bribe my way into an advanced screening of the Martian. I’m rather proud of myself, since I only missed seeing it at the same time as the ISS by 4 or 5 orbits. The Martian is a breathtaking story about Mark Watney both surviving the inhospitable landscape of Mars while at the same time being Matt Damon.
I’m starting to ramble, so since you’re probably reading this at work, I’ll save your boss the time and keep it short. GO WATCH IT. It is an out of this world adventure, with Matt Damon delivering a stellar performance. The cast was packed with star power, and the film will rocket into the hearts and minds of nerds and scientist alike.
It is a love letter to science and the human spirit. Sadly the film did show a little Mars red rust on the polish. The cast and crew did an astronomical job, but deviated from Andy Weir’s trajectory. One must remember that in the film medium, artistic liberties trump accuracies, so armor your air lock so you don’t decomporess your suspension of disbelief.
Here’s a couple heads up on deviations from the book, and in the words of Weirs a few thoughts to prevent moments that lead to lines like ““Everything went great right up to the explosion.”
Mars Geography on steroids
I have been watching NASA’s feeds since Pathfinder, I have never seen Martian geography that looked so unforgiving and so much like Utah. I suspect the film makers took Google Mars and turned the aspect ratio up
Much of the joy of the book is the painstaking effort Weir takes to show Watney’s survival. He details space suit operations, botany, orbital trajectories. After paragraphs and paragraphs of technical jargon he even invents a shorthand.
“You know what? “Kilowatt-hour per sol” is a pain in the ass to say. I’m gonna invent a new scientific unit name. One kilowatt-hour per sol is... it can be anything... um... I suck at this... I’ll call it a “pirate-ninja”.”
Much of this is lost in the movie from the opening act onward. The film is hands down the best hard science fiction film in theaters, but in this day and age, that like being the smartest cookie in the shed.
The Rovers were poorly designed
Ok this might just be me nerdgasming over the hard science of it, but the Rovers could seriously have benefited from a thorough thrashing from someone in the know at Houston.
NASA is relatively poor, and sending junk into space is expensive, so they would have optimized. The pressure vessels on these is just horrid. I know they designed it to look uncomfortable and to help the audience sympathize with Watney, but it gives me the sads
Watney is no longer an engineer
I take personal offense to this. More sads.
Quips and character dropped from the book
Since the movie could not be the 6.5 hours in length it needed to be, much of the crew comradeship was dropped. Anyone who has served, sailed or been road tripping knows what this is like, and it will be missed. I copied a little back into this review for you, my hapless reader.
“[19:29] JOHANSSEN: When we pick you up, I will make wild, passionate love to you. Prepare your body.
[19:29] JOHANSSEN: I didn’t type that! That was Martinez! I stepped away from the console for like 10 seconds!”
Mark Watney is more human less Ash Williams
In the movie, you feel for Watney, you root for him you want him to live. He’s human, he cries, he whines. In the book, he’s a mixture of Ash Williams and MacGyver. He flaunts lines like
“I can’t wait till I have grandchildren. “When I was younger, I had to walk to the rim of a crater. Uphill! In an EVA suit! On Mars, ya little shit! Ya hear me? Mars!”
You never fear for him, because you feel with that indomitable will, somehow he’ll make it because that’s what he does. Then again, the book version of Mark Watney is an engineer, so I guess being a know-it-all can-do bad ass is just part of the job.
Loss of the deeper elements
There were a few page turning moments in the book that made you realize that although Weir could bash NASA’s bureaucracy with one breathe he has a profound love of them and what they do. Lines like
“I need some encouragement. I need to ask myself, “What would an Apollo astronaut do?” He’d drink three whiskey sours, drive his Corvette to the launchpad, then fly to the moon in a command module smaller than my Rover. Man those guys were cool.”
are lost. And that’s about all the lamanets I can think of
The Ares is a thing of beauty
Seriously, this thing is flying Gucci lovely mixed precision awesomeness.
Put your slide ruler down, and cast away your trivial Enterprise and Millennium Falcon models, this is the prettiest interplanetary starship ever to break high orbit.
The Ares Crew, and the Fellowship of NASA heroes
Weir’s humor bleeds over into all his characters and you do get the impression at times they are all the same person. The actors and actresses bring humanity into their roles.
To date, you will not see a better representation of zero gravity or the vastness of space. It was near impossible to tell the film shots from the live feeds on the ISS.
I’m buying the soundtrack for work, and DISCO never dies.
This film doesn’t slack from the initial countdown, it blasts off within minutes then hard burns through trials and struggles before looping around for the finale.
Just pure awesomeness (Yes this needs a section for itself)
This is the second time Sean Bean has sat at the council of Elrond.
My inner nerd will slumber peacefully until the dark one calls again.
Watney’s Dog: Best Dog on the planet
In Space: Yes they used it, you will be caught by surprised every time
Rich Purnell is a steely eyed rocket man!
Matt Damon, IRON MAN!
I will repeat myself go see it, This is the best hard science fiction film since Apollo 13. Please spend lots of money, buy all the merchandise, so they make more movies like this, and more toddlers become astronauts, and I can one day tell you to get off my lawn on Mars you little shits!