The Martian: Sciencing the Shit Out of It

Today, 20th Century Fox released an official trailer for Ridley Scott’s adaptation of Andy Weir’s superb novel, The Martian. Frankly, I’ve been awaiting this film with something like giddy trepidation. As previously indicated, Weir’s novel was excellent, and Ridley Scott has done some strong work in the past, particularly in the realm of science fiction (Alien, Blade Runner). Scott’s more recent work, however, has been a little lackluster. Here, I’m thinking particularly of Prometheus, a film that presented a characterization of scientists that was borderline egregious: the ranks of a crack scientific team engaged in what must certainly be a monumentally expensive and risky mission to uncover traces of alien life on a distant planet are populated with bumbling idiots and religious fanatics. Peter Weyland might easily have stocked his crew with the Three Stooges or Keystone Cops and encountered less ineptitude. And don’t get me started on the science itself…

Anyway, the point is that Andy Weir wrote a monumental work of hard science fiction. Indeed, the verisimilitude of the science gives the story much of its propulsive energy. The protagonist, Mark Watney, is put through a crucible of maddening, dangerous, and immensely practical challenges as he attempts to survive on Mars. Likewise, he and the NASA specialists on earth must find practical solutions using extremely limited resources. The result is a thrilling story, a celebration of human ingenuity and determination. Weir’s fiction builds upon the factors behind Apollo 13’s persistence as a compelling survival story, and why a film that deviated little from the historical record of the events in question worked so well. Brass tacks, I was worried Scott might find a way to inject the story with his brand of superstitious woo-woo nonsense or cloud the science with unnecessary rubbish.

Which is why I find myself incredibly relieved excited by this trailer. The cast is top-notch, and it looks like Scott and his production team have done an excellent job capturing the spirit of Weir’s book. As Damon’s Watney explains in the trailer, “in the face of overwhelming odds, [he’s] going have to science the shit out of this.” Here’s hoping the film makes good on the trailer’s promise.

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