The Martian (2011): You’d Think That Living on Mars Would Change a Person But Not Mark Watney Apparently

I was hopeful. Beyond hopeful. So many people were raving about it, it was accurate science fiction, Matt Damon was going to be in the movie, etc., etc.

And it was about Mars and space. Space!

The Martian (by Andy Weir) tells a survival tale of botanist Mark Watney who is stranded on Mars after his crew leaves him behind, thinking him to be dead. An astronaut stranded on Mars, where there is no life, no water, no air, just rocks and sand and a couple of things NASA left behind. It’s hard to get more intense than that.

Unfortunately, only the premise proved to be intense.

It was cool how Watney survived on Mars. It was cool how he knew all the science and did the math (and I swear Weir wrote this with a calculator next to him), and sarcastic first-person narration is usually not a bad way to go, but in the end, I was far from impressed.

I was excited to see the movie before, but now…not so much.

The only thing The Martian has going for it is scientific accuracy.

Don’t get me wrong, I am pretty into science. I like science, I’m considering going into science as a career. But The Martian didn’t appeal to me.

While we’re on the topic of scientific accuracy, I have to say that I am impressed and I did enjoy it, at least for the first hundred pages. However, as accurate as his chemistry was, a hundred fifty pages later, it’s still chemistry. Simply speaking, it got old.

I was expecting a tough, gritty survivalist story with maybe a pinch of the theme of humanity and fate thrown in as last minute seasonings, but it just didn’t turn out that way. All Watney did was ramble to his log about how he managed to not die that day and maybe part with some not-so-witty sarcastic comment that I feel like I was supposed to laugh at.

It also seemed highly implausible that someone could live on Mars for a year and a half and not change at all, being surrounded by red sand in every direction, and faced with the constant fear of dying. On Mars. Where there is not a single living thing. And not to mention, lack of communication with humans for the first couple of weeks. Watney didn’t change a single bit.

We don’t even have to go as far as deep character development. I just find it hard to believe that even after a year and a half on MARS, Watney can still spit out sarcastic comments like it’s not an issue at all. I never believed for a second that Mark Watney felt like he was actually going to die.

But Jamie, not every book has to be deep and philosophical with meaningful character development.

Yes, but every book should have at least some developed characters. The Martian has close to zero character development. The entire thing is almost always from Watney’s perspective, and also a log perspective where he is literally supposed to be telling his last words to, and yet, I know almost nothing about Mark Watney.

That’s not entirely true. I know he has parents and I know he’s a botanist.

And the other characters who are all working to bring Watney home alive? They’re hardly more than names that were printed on the paper in black ink. They seemed to only exist for the purpose of trying to bring Watney back home.

I was dissatisfied with The Martian. And I didn’t find it funny at all, despite Weir’s attempt at a sarcastic, smart-ass narrator. I suppose I do have to give The Martian credit where it’s due though–the science really was interesting and it was interesting to see Watney save himself through creative methods.

Conclusion: The Martian grabs the reader with a gritty premise of a lone astronaut stranded on Mars, but Watney fails to capture the reader as he monotonously tells the audience how he didn’t die with too many attempts at humor that really weren’t funny; it was potentially a gritty survivalist story, but ended up being flat and stale, even though it was flavored by accurate science, which in the end, failed to add to the “fiction” portion of science fiction. 3/10.


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