Monday, October 12, 2015

The Martian

Yesterday, we went to see The Martian at the local multi-cinema.  I was going to write some mini-review thoughts down, but it all pales next to Adaptive Curmudgeon's take on the movie:  "For Once, a Movie Didn't Suck". 

Short review:  Go. See. It. 

Sure it's a movie.  They got the science more right than not, but some times they just had to exaggerate things for dramatic effect.  Several people have commented that the atmosphere on Mars is so thin that a storm of the force required to throw a fully grown man just isn't happening.  But they needed the plot device to separate Matt Damon's character Mark Watney from the rest of the crew and provide a plausible reason for the mission to leave him.  From the IMDB trivia page:
The atmospheric pressure on the Martian surface averages 600 Pa (0.087 psi), about 0.6% of Earth's mean sea level pressure of 100 kPa (14.69 psi). It is so low that a "fierce storm", as they put it, would be something akin to a very light breeze messing up your hair. Author Andy Weir admitted this was his biggest inaccuracy in the story...
...and the technically weakest part of the whole film.   They speed through the delay in conversations, after saying light time to Mars was 24 minutes, but that has to be done.  In one or two scenes, the people waiting on earth were in different positions or moved to reflect the long wait between sending and receiving messages.  But that's all minor.  Go. See.  It. 
At one point, Watney talks about the simple fact that everything he does and everyplace he goes he's "The First Human Ever".  It's not dwelled on, but it does help you think about what it would be like, marooned in an extremely hostile environment for two years. 


  1. Saw it the other night. Liked it a lot. Saw some of the same flaws that you did but ignored them and just enjoyed the movie. For once, Hollywood made something halfway decent.

  2. The movie is on our must see in theater list, and that is a very short list.

    I would also suggest spending just under an hour on YouTube to watch the interview with Andy Weir and Adam Savage.

    I read the novel and thought it was a great story, very well written, and I was concerned about the Hollywood treatment. Thank you for the positive review.

    (and off topic, using the lathe, a large live center, and a woodworking rasp to turn a taper on PVC pipe so my wife's mini shop vac was not out of commission due to the breakage of the end fitting, was just priceless.) (and yes, I could have set the tailstock over, but then you have to realign the tailstock. And the whole job was finished in less time then it would have taken to calculate the offset and then reset the tailstock.)

  3. When I was a kid I read all the SF I could find. I enjoyed a lot of SF movies. But I'm so burned out. I'm not sure if the SF has changed or I have changed. So much of it revolves around stupid stuff that I think you have to be a drug user to sit through it. I can't bring myself to go to see Martian.

  4. Haven't seen the movie; may get around to it eventually. But the sandstorm business puts me in mind of Larry Niven's description of a Martian storm:
    "The sandstorm was at the height of its fury, which made it about as dangerous as an enraged caterpillar."

  5. I read the book first and really enjoyed it. The movie was good but not great, IMHO. Seems Caterpillar was the contractor who provided the MAV and rovers; what with the cast iron manhole cover nose cone and half ton tractor tires. Not to mention the Hermes spacecraft had bank vault sized (and weight) air lock doors.

    Also, the bubble on top of the rover was never explained. Why destroy a perfectly good roof to duct tape a Visqueen balloon onto it? Oh, and the exploding HAB airlock repair. Visqueen and duct tape, REALLY? 14psi delta-p. Do the math.

  6. Anon - I've read that it's a better engineering movie than science movie, but that scene with the plastic sheet and duct tape made me cringe. All movies involve some sort of "suspension of disbelief", it's just a matter of how much.

    I haven't read the book, but I understand that in the book Watney identifies as an undergrad mechanical engineer and graduate botanist. The movie just went with botanist. Did the book include the duct tape and trash bag scene?