This past weekend, The Martian debuted in theaters to much fanfare, and the Cliff’s Notes version of this is: it’s not undeserved. The film adaptation of Andy Weir’s runaway bestselling novel tells the harrowing tale of one man’s endurance, ingenuity and determination to survive as a lone astronaut accidentally left for dead on the surface of Mars. With limited food and supplies and no way to reach Earth, astronaut Mark Watney must make equipment meant to last only 30 days keep him alive for over a year until the next crew can reach him, using only his wits. It’s a tale of survival against impossible odds, like Apollo 13— or, for that matter, the Firefly episode “Out of Gas.” Coincidentally, one of the NASA managers tasked with coordinating the interplanetary rescue effort is played by Chewitel Ejiofor, better known to fans of Serenity as The Operative.
Here’s the rare instance where you’d actually WANT that “warship in deep orbit”…
The film itself has been pretty well hyped by 21st-Century FOX and eagerly awaited by the novel’s many fans. The good news is, it essentially lived up to said hype. Being an avid reader myself, comparisons to the book are inevitable. In this case, though, we have one of the rare instances where a film adaptation may not necessarily improve on its source material, but does an excellent job of bringing it to life and telling it in a way that novels often can’t.
Remember the last time you spoke with a friend, and realized he’d never seen Firefly before? After you both had a chance to catch your breath after you tackled said friend and pinned him to the ground, do you remember the urgency with which you pleaded with him to watch it, so that he too might have that Whedon-borne life-changing experience? Ever since reading The Martian by Andy Weir recently, I’ve been pressing it upon people in the exact same way (just ask Chris). Well, okay… maybe minus the tackling and pinning part.
The Martian is a gripping, white-knuckle account of a lone astronaut accidentally left for dead and stranded on the surface of Mars by the rest of his NASA crew. How’s this for an in-media-res opening: Flight engineer Mark Watney regains consciousness in a ditch in the middle of a howling Martian dust storm, hours after the rest of his crew has left in their only ride back home to Earth, impaled by part of an antenna in his abdomen– which means his suit is leaking both air and blood! With no one there to help him, he realizes that even if he can survive, somehow crawl back into the airlock and tend to his wounds, the hab module only has enough supplies for 30 days. Due to the nature of planetary orbits, the next crew won’t be coming to rescue him for over a year!
Not that they’ll be coming to rescue him in the first place, because the only means of communicating with Mission Control is sticking out of his gut at the moment. Having no means to contact and counsel with NASA back on Earth, Watney is forced to get by on sheer determination and clever ingenuity.