The Martian And Hollywood's Return to Space – Look! It Moves! By Adi Tantimedh


Adi Tantimedh writes,

So Ridley Scott's adaptation of Andrew Weir's novel The Martian is a hit on opening weekend and looks set to be a global hit in the next few months. The story of a lone astronaut stranded on Mars having to use all his skills and scientific knowledge to improvise ways to stay alive while his colleagues both in space and on Earth use their skills and knowledge to sae him is an elegantly simple pitch. Man vs. Nature, survival against the odds, the refusal to give up are all universal themes.

>The movie is remarkably faithful to the book, which was already plotted, structured and paced like a meticulous three-act Hollywood blockbuster movie to point I wondered if Weir had taken Robert McKee's screenwriting class. I don't say this to knock McKee. He is the best teacher of screenwriting out there, and granted, there are writers and movies that adopted his lessons badly, but The Martian is not one of them. I liked the book when I read it, and to see a movie version of a book is always going to end up an exercise in comparisons in my head, noting what was cut, what was kept, and ultimately, what was changed. We've seen movies from books that have different endings, movies from books that are so radically changed they barely resembled the book anymore, but The Martian is a minor miracle in how faithful it is to the book.

The movie is like a condensed version of the book, preserving the hero's snarky voice and also touching on the emotional toll of his isolation more than the book does. Maybe it cuts out too much for fans of the book. No Pirate Ninja jokes. A potentially devastating dust storm in the latter half of the second act of the novel is left out, probably for time. The solution for his final rescue changed slightly from the book. Even the part where help comes from China, which some people might think was included to appeal to a Chinese audience and financing, was originally in the novel. All in all, it's a fun romp that redeems Ridley Scott after the awful script of Prometheus and the bloated, pointlessness of Exodus.

What's really interesting is the general amount of goodwill towards the movie. Variety published an editorial examining its appeal. It's pro-Science, pro-competence, pro-smart, pro-NASA. As the editorial points out, the movie has been a surprise hit among young people and those active on social media at a time when they might be abandoning TV shows and movies in favour of online content.


Hollywood is greeting the movie's success with a combination of relief and delighted mild surprise. The Martian's success also seems to indicate that scientifically plausible or accurate movies about astronauts has serious commercial appeal. This is not the same as the Space Opera genre, which tends to feature a lot of made-up Science to bolster stories that are often really about medieval empires at war or military fantasy in space, and considered cheesy by many Hollywood executives. At heart, Star Trek was about allegories for contemporary social and political fables. The astronaut genre demands a sense of authenticity, to show how hard it is to explore and work in outer space. Gravity, despite its inane scientific inaccuracies, was a hit for its suspense and innovative long-take filmmaking. Interstellar was a hit for its grand cosmic ideas. The Martian is the most scientifically accurate movie of the lot and the one with the knowing sense of humour laid over its optimistic message. All this at a time when an anti-Science right wing has been cutting funding to NASA. The Martian serves as propaganda advocating space travel and the value of NASA. All these astronaut movies, all the way back to Apollo 13, argue that going to space is worth it in spite of the dangers. Not once does The Martian push a reactionary message of fear saying we're better off not going into space. These movies all argue that we should go into space for what we can learn, despite the dangers. The effort is worth it.

Space is the future. Space is possibilities. Space is Escape. Space is redemption for us all.

Space is box office gold.

Men are from Mars at

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Look! It Moves! © Adisakdi Tantimedh

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About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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