The Martian. My review? Brilliant! All thumbs up. Great book, but this is one of those stories where visuals can tell the tale even better. The movie is breathtaking. Well, plus Matt Damon is perfect (not in general, just for this role. Or maybe he is perfect. Whatever). He’s always been able to give life to a loner character, make the smart sad man charming and kind of adorable. And since this is basically Castaway In Space, the leading man is the movie. Though the supporting cast added a lot. Everybody gets a gold star today.
Read the book? You’d probably like it even if you don’t like speculative fiction. There’s a good bit of salt (that means swearing, do I have to tell you everything), but it’s appropriate because if you found yourself abandoned on Mars, you’d probably say some things, too. Just have a peek inside before you give it to your grandmother for Christmas. But if you like to get lots of recommendations before you commit, here’s one more: watch the movie. If you’re at all geeky/techy/DIY, read the book.
I was delightfully surprised to find that our entire family enjoyed it, even though The Martian is definitely Sci-Fi. Partly that’s because it’s set only about five minutes from now (I’m exaggerating. It’s set twenty years in the future. Quick, change the subject before we realize how old we’ll be in twenty years.). It also helps a lot that, spoiler alert, this Sci-Fi is distinctly lacking little green men/chest bursters/Chewbacca. The story has universal appeal because the themes are of loss and loneliness, and everyone can relate to that.
I want to back up for a moment. Personally, I relate to the fantastical. Bring on the green men, whatever size. I grok that they’re there as a metaphor. One of my (many, many) favorite moments in Star Trek is when Captain Kirk says, “Spock, you want to know something? Everybody’s human,” and Spock cocks an eyebrow and replies, “I find that remark insulting.” (Star Trek VI)
I see the writers winking at me right through the screen. Kirk is right: no matter how alien the aliens are, no matter how strange you think your neighbor is, we’re all relatable. And the (tall) green man’s response is also relatable: we pretty much hate that. We want to stand out. We are all weird and wonderful and it’s beautiful to embrace that.
So I happily ingest it all. Mark Watney could have been green or blue or covered in fur, and I’d still have gotten into the story. But I’m glad for your sake, if you or someone you love is put off by visual weirdness, that he was just Matt Damon and a stick thin body double. Man, somebody give that guy a hamburger. Or a big plate of potatoes. Ha!