Abandoned on Mars, astronaut Mark Watney must figure out how to stay alive until the next mission to Mars arrives, four years in the future.
Genre: Science Fiction
Viewer Appeal: Ages 12 and up.
The 2016 Golden Globes awarded The Martian the Best Picture and Best Actor awards in a Musical or Comedy for a movie about an astronaut stranded on Mars, alone, for four years. Interesting, because while it does have moments of levity, My Favorite Martian this is not.
Matt Damon plays Mark Watney, a botanist/astronaut who is one member of a team visiting Mars. While on an "E.V.A." outside the "Hab," a Martian storm of monumental strength kicks up. The force of it's winds is so powerful the MAV is threatened, and the astronauts are forced to abandon their exploration of Mars for the safety of space. Basically, the winds were so strong, they were afraid it would knock over their "ascent vehicle" (or rocket which would return them to Earth). While attempting to get to the MAV, Mark is struck by flying debris, knocked unconscious, and thought to be dead. When he awakens, he's alone. And alive. On Mars. For four years, with enough food to last only partway through those numerous days.
Did I mention he's a botanist? Not wanting to die and all, Mark devises a plan to plant his Thanksgiving potatoes in Martian soil and produce his own food until help arrives. Did I mention he doesn't have any way to contact NASA to let them know he IS alive? It's really just a minor detail to Mark. He figures out how to find Pathfinder, start up that computer, and make contact. Along with a few other minor details that save his life.
On Earth, the smart people at NASA figured out a few months prior that Mark is alive and have been making preparations to send additional supplies. A team made up of Teddy Sanders, a NASA administrator (Jeff Daniels); Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor), the Director of Mars Operations; and other miscellaneous scientists are working around the clock to figure out how to get a rocket ready in time to fly all the way to Mars before Watney dies. And their kind of in a bind until an unknown astrodynamicist walking the halls of NASA uncovers a brilliant idea. Why not have the crew who abandoned Watney, go back and rescue him?
The Martian could be a boring movie filled with sciency kinds of dialogue and information that very few of us would understand, but instead we have a movie that won an award for comedy! Matt Damon truly showed his knack for comedic timing, and embodied the quirky character of Mark Watney. Will he win an Oscar for his performance? I don't know, but he performed brilliantly, as did the other actors supporting him.
I read this book, and was amazed at how the screenwriters kept (mostly) true to the original, and what the suspense added at the end only furthered the excellence of an already brilliant story. His adventures and misadventures are well told. His isolation and loneliness are soundly documented in the desolation of Mars itself, as is his desperation to get home. Will your kids like it? Tweens on up will find it interesting, which makes it a great movie for family night. Parents should be aware there are a couple of f-words, and other curse words implied.
The Martian was nominated for 7 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Matt Damon), Best Writing, Best Production Design, Best Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, and Best Achievement in Visual Effects. It's a worthy movie to see.
Let’s Talk About It
Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this movie:
• Mark doesn't talk much about God, but he does look at a crucifix and hope for help. Why is faith in God so easy to dismiss until we're in trouble?
• Mark endured a sort of solitary confinement, which must have led to great feelings of loneliness. Being physically alone isn't the only thing that can cause feelings of loneliness, though. How can even one friend change your life?
• If you were stranded on Mars, what would you miss the most about Earth? Why?
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(20th Century Fox)
For: Some strong language, injury images, and brief nudity