The Martian: hope and potatoes

I’m a huge nerd and I love space exploration, so it’s no huge surprise that I saw The Martian this week — but my delight at semi-realistic NASA missions is not the only reason. I’m showing my support for a fellow self-publisher, Andy Weir, who made it big with his book-turned-Hollywood-blockbuster, and it gives me vast quantities of hope about my own career.

Moving on, let’s talk movie. I can’t help but to compare it to the book, of course, but it’s remarkably faithful. It keeps the tone and almost all of the best scenes, barring a couple which I can only imagine were cut due to time constraints or copyright issues. It would have been so easy for them to turn the main character, Mark Whatney, into something else, but he’s the same grumpy goofball that made the book so much fun to read.

The cinematography is lovely. The landscapes of Mars look astounding, and the all-pervasive redness contrasts well with the cooler palettes of the Earth scenes. The 3D, because of course I saw it in 3D (did I mention I was a huge nerd?), was fairly subtle and mostly just enhanced the sense of scale. Mars might be a small planet on an astronomical scale, but it felt gargantuan, especially with some of those shots of the distinguished grandpappy of all mountains, Olympus Mons.

I liked this movie. I related to it, because even though most of us aren’t stuck on another planet, sometimes life can feel that way. You can have all manner of disaster thrown at you, feel utterly isolated and alone, and yet somehow dig down and find a way to survive. In The Martian, that involves growing potatoes and setting fire to rocket fuel, and while these solutions might not be perfect for every situation, they can certainly be used for inspiration.

Oh, who am I kidding, growing potatoes is the cure for all of life’s problems. They’re delicious.

But speaking of inspiration, I would like to come back again to the fact that this was a self-published book. Not one traditional publisher felt like taking a chance on The Martian, so Weir made it a best-seller on his own. It’s now a movie with a hundred million dollar budget, and I can honestly say I’m not envious in the slightest. Sure, I wish that I could get a movie deal, but I only wish that because I now know that it can be done. Sort of like seeing Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, to make an appropriate analogy.

Go see The Martian and see what it inspires you to do.