I don’t get out my these days–that’s sort of clear to a lot of people. And one of the things I don’t get out to do is see movies. Most of that is due to having sort of a high standard when it comes to seeing a movie, and that’s to be entertained without having too much of my intelligence insulted. That’s why I’d only seen Mad Max: Fury Road this year of 2015 and nothing else. I’m just a cranky bitch when it comes to film.
Yesterday, however, not long after posted on my blog, I headed out to see The Martian, the movie based upon Andy Weir’s 2011 novel of the same name. One reason I wanted to see the movie was because it was science fiction, and from everything I’d read of the novel, pretty accurate science fiction, with the emphases on science. I will say now that I have not read the novel, but I’m probably going to pick it up and give it a read just to see the differences between the printed and visual versions.
The interesting thing about the novel is how it came about. Weir wanted the novel as scientifically accurate as possible, and did a lot of research on the surface of Mars, on botany, astrophysics, space craft design, and orbital mechanics, going so far as to write is own program so he could track the orbits of the ships in his novel.
Weir had been writing since his twenties, and The Martian was his first novel. He shopped it around, and when none of the publishing houses showed interested, he started publishing the book for free on his website, going thought chapter by chapter.
After a while people asked him to put out a Kindle version of the story, and he did, and he sold the book for $.99, the lowest price one can offer for a work on Amazon. After he sold thirty-five thousand copies in one month, Crown Publishing Group approached him and asked if he’d like a sweet deal for his book. The deal made him another one hundred thousand dollars and got him a movie, so it sounds like he got what he was looking for.
If you’re asking, “What’s this about?”, it’s about a guy who, through no fault of anyone, gets stranded on Mars and has to find a way to stay alive until he’ rescued.
That’s the story in a nutshell, and without going into a lot of detail, it’s what the movies shows. What I loved was the attention to detail and how everything was so . . . sciencry. As I indicated I haven’t read the book, but there were things in the movie that because of my knowledge of Mars and space stuff in general, I got right away. (There was a scene in the movie where the main character was looking at a map, and the minute he realizes something and was hit with a light bulb moment, so was I. Geeks, I know.)
The movie is magnificent in appearance. The Mars stand-in was Wadi Rum in Jordan, which has stood in for Mars in a couple of movies, and one of the locations used in Laurence of Arabia. With the help of a little CGI you feel like you could be there on the Red Planet. All the tech looks workable and has an authentic feel. And the spaceship Hermes and the Mars HABs . . . Oi.
I can look at the ship above and see stuff that’s supposed to be there on a real spacecraft, and that makes me happy. There are things I saw happening in the movie that shouldn’t have happened (when you decelerate in space, your engine is supposed to be pointed towards the forward edge of your orbit, thank you), but they were minor and nitpicky. Even Weir admits that he made the storms on Mars more visually impressive than they would be in real life because, you know, sometimes you have to do that.
The characters are good, though I think NASA in the middle of the 21st Century would be a tad more diverse than shown, and in one major instance, a character was completely whitewashed. The moment I saw the character’s name I thought “Shouldn’t she be Korean?” This, again, came without reading the novel, and after a little investigation last night I discovered I was correct. It isn’t impossible to find an actress of the proper ethnicity these days, so Hollywood, you need to stop that shit right now.
There is one scene in the movie that got a huge laugh out of the audience I was with–and with me as well–and without going into detail:
I came out really happy, not only because I saw what I’d say was a real science fiction movie, but because there was a scene involving engineering that was done while ABBA’s Waterloo played on the soundtrack. I mean, come on: that’s something I’d do in my stories, so you know I was smiling like crazy and bouncing in my seat as the scene played out. And in a moment of disclosure, in a game I was running some twenty years ago, I’d planed to use Waterloo as a song-over during a scene were some people were preparing in invade a planet.
See? Great minds think alike. And so do those who know what makes science fun.