Last night I saw The Martian with two friends and my college Newman Club’s chaplain. I am confident saying it is the best movie of this year so far, and that the many good things I had heard about this movie turned out to be true.
The movie opens with an intense sandstorm interrupting a Mars mission, during which the crew’s botanist Mark Watney is struck by debris and lost in the storm, believed by his fellow astronauts to be dead. The remainder of the crew boards their ship and leaves for Earth, reporting the death of Watney to NASA and the world. Meanwhile, Mark survived the Martian storm and must find a way to survive on the Red Planet and contact Earth with only the Ares scientific base with its equipment and leftover food, a few bags of potato seeds, a Mars rover, and various buried equipment from past Mars missions.
The best thing about this movie to me was that it reminded me of the survival stories I read or watched growing up, such as Hatchet and Castaway. And it was very much so the next logical step in the survival genre, as deserted planets are the new deserted islands to a humanity that has expanded its exploration to the stars. Matt Damon gave a phenomenal performance as Mark Watney, and his resolve to never give up in the face of extreme adversity is a great message for all of us.
One of my favorite moments, however, was when Mark’s former crewmates choose to turn around before reaching Earth and head back to Mars to rescue him against NASA’s wishes, whose director argued that one death would be better than six. From the view of Catholic Social Teaching, the Ares crew were some of the real heroes of the movie, going out of their way and risking everything to rescue a single person from death. Sometimes as Catholics we are called to sacrifice convenience for the greater glory of God and His people.
Overall, I highly recommend The Martian to everyone reading this. It is a fantastic piece of cinematography and storytelling. The only problematic scene I can think of is when Mark says he is going to burn a crucifix he found in the base to make water, but we never explicitly see him doing it and it is implied there were other “personal items” he may have used instead. As a final note, I am aware that this movie was based on a book. I have not read it, but I would encourage both myself and all of you to read it as well, since many things can be lost when translating a book to the screen. All in all, a great movie that stands above the majority of this fall’s blockbusters.