The Philosophy of Stoicism in The Martian
Being stranded alone in the middle of nowhere is a fear amongst many people. It is not uncommon for these situations to happen; however, how one acts then varies from person to person. While some people may stay calm and try to survive, others may panic and lose hope. If this situation were to happen on a different planet where one’s chance of survival is slim to none, would people still try to survive or accept that they were left for dead? In the film The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney is accidentally left stranded on Mars where he has limited resources to survive before NASA and his crewmates are able to aid him back to Earth. The main parts of the film have aspects that coincide with the philosophy of Stoicism. Mark, the main character of the film, exemplifies various stoic teachings through his actions.
In Epictetus’ Enchiridion, he makes a point that people should focus on things that are in their control instead of things that are not. Likewise, Mark understands that death is inevitable and that it is something he cannot control. He is aware that it is possible that he may die on Mars; however, he chooses to persevere and use the surrounding resources, something he has limited control over, in order to survive under such adverse conditions. Stoics are not afraid of adversities such as death because they have prepared themselves by coming to terms with the inevitable ahead of time. In the film, there is a scene where Mark is talking with Commander Lewis and tells her that if he does not make it, he wants her to tell his family that he loves them and that he enjoyed his time in space. Mark had accepted the fact that he may die before he makes it back to Earth long before he was able to communicate with NASA and his crewmates. The possibility of death is not strange to him and so he does not fear it, but rather embraces it.
The idea of self-control and being rational is part of stoic teachings. Human beings, unlike animals, have the ability to use reason and logic when making decisions; therefore, individuals are free to choose how they are affected by certain events. Stoics believe that certain events are inherently not bad, but it is one’s judgment about the event that causes them to perceive it that way. Mark makes rational decisions about his food supply. He has a limited amount of food, but he discovers a way to grow potatoes using his knowledge in botany, and the resources made available to him. When the HAB explodes and Mark’s crops are gone, he chooses to control his emotions by staying calm and rationing out his food to prolong his survival instead of panicking. All Mark could do was accept what has happened and get to work to fix it.
In Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life, he says that life is not short and that people are wasting their precious time doing meaningless things. In a way, this teaching about using time wisely can connect to the scene where Mark decides to use his time and take the rover to search for the Mars Pathfinder instead of sitting inside the HAB, waiting for help to come. Mark uses his time to actively search for ways to communicate with NASA, which will help him, instead of wasting his time idling. Time is something human beings take for granted and given the situation Mark is in, he does not want to waste any time before his resources start to deplete.
Ultimately, Mark exemplifies various stoic teachings about life through his actions. Stoics believe one should focus on what they can control and accept misfortunes ahead of time. Mark focuses on surviving with the resources available and comes to terms with the possibility of dying on Mars. Stoics also believe in making rational decisions and having self-control when it comes to judging an event as it may interfere with one’s tranquility. When faced with adversity, Mark stays calm and focuses on making rational decisions to prolong his survival. Time is also of the essence and stoic philosopher Seneca believes that humans should not waste their time doing meaningless things. Likewise, Mark makes use of his time to actively get help instead of sitting around waiting for help to miraculously arrive.
What is Mars Really Like: An Evaluation of Ridley Scott’s The Martian
Leal Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” first premiered on October 2, 2019 in movie theaters all across the United States. The film features an account of NASA astronaut, Mark Watney being stranded alone on planet Mars after his crew blasted off back to Earth during a severe storm thinking Mark had died after being hit by a piece of heavy equipment. While trying to survive alone on Mars waiting for a rescue mission, Mark performs many unrealistic tasks in the technological, vegetation, and sanitary categories.
After hundreds of days without any form of human communication Mark is finally able to reach and communicate with NASA using the “Hexadecimal” system to signal he is alive and healthy. After he does that he is able to find a new, more effective way to communicate with NASA representatives using a keyboard and a screen that works like today’s modern text messaging systems receiving them instantly, but this couldn’t be farther from reality. The weather on Mars is very extreme and experiences many “powerful dust storms, which can sometimes shroud the entire planet after just a few days. Though these storms probably wouldn’t physically harm you, the dust could clog electronics and interfere with solar-powered instruments, Vasavada said.” which would make it very difficult for mark to communicate in a timely manner as the unpredictable weather could damage the hexadecimal system which took place outside as it needed a lot of space to perform. Also he and NASA would not be able to communicate as quickly as in the movie when he started using the keyboard and screen methods because “a message sent home to Earth would take an average of 15 minutes to get there.”.
While on Mars and realizing that his current food supply is not going to last him forever, Mark decides to start a farm in his shelter by planting and growing potatoes, by gathering soil, using feces as fertilizer, and performing a chemical reaction to make water for the plants. The problem is not that the gravity on Mars is different from Earth but instead that Mars does not have a strong enough magnetic field to block out radiation. The high amounts of radiation on the planet’s surface would create a major problem for fertilization as the potatoes he is growing are in radiation filled soil. Another problem that would arise would be the lack of sunlight that his potatoes are receiving. Mark is forced to grow the potatoes inside his pressure filled shelter as if he tried to grow them outside they would instantly die but that means that they are not getting the amount of natural sunlight that is needed with the radiation shielding.
After getting left behind by his crew, Mark awoke alone outside in the Mars soil with his space suit punctured by a metal rod attached to a satellite dish, but thankfully the rod and hardened blood was enough to seal the suit keeping him alive and breathing until he awoke. Once awake he realized his oxygen tank was running low so he cut the rod from the satellite and went to his shelter to perform surgery on himself. The surgery itself as actually very realistic based on the limited supplies and time he has but the problem is that the he stapled the large wound, and with time the staples would come out exposing the wound. The exposed wound but have a very high chance of getting an infection as he was not able to shower for 549 sols which is equivalent to 564 Earth days. With no way for him to clean himself its is very unrealistic how he did not get infected as he would be sweating large amounts or full with dirt from the very unpredictable weather on Mars.
Overall, the movie is really good and provides a good representation of how life might be like on Mars once NASA launches their first mission to explore the deserted red planet, but the movie is just lacking realism in the technological, vegetation, and sanitary aspects.
- Castro, Joseph. What Would It Be Like to Live on Mars? Space.com, Space, 17 Feb. 2015, www.space.com/28557-how-to-live-on-mars.html.
- Lemonick, Michael. What It’s Like to Go to Mars. Time, Time, 30 May 2013, science.time.com/2013/05/30/what-its-like-to-travel-to-mars/.
- Scott, Ridley, director. The Martian. Performance by Matt Damon, 2015.
The Review of the Film The Martian by Ridley Scott
After Prometheus and Alien: The Covenant Ridley Scott again shows with The Martian his incredible talent when it comes to space films. Ridley Scott presents a film about space travel, isolation and ingenuity. But while his previous movies where completely sci-fi, this time it’s a quite realistic story. The film is an adaptation of the best-seller The Martian written by the American novelist Andy Weir.
When Mark Watney, botanist and astronaut, is presumed dead and left behind on Mars after a heavy dust storm, it doesn’t look so good for him. Without any contact with Earth his situation seems desperate. He’s wounded, totally alone and he has no way of getting back. But here’s when the coolest part starts. Since astronauts have an extremely wide training and knowledge, Mark has to science the shit out of this. Literally. Here’s where Project PooTato enters: He must farm potatoes on a planet where nothing grows with the poo of his fellow crewmates in order not to starve. With this and many other things, the film is full of scientific and technical features. It does not get to complicated for the common watcher, rather accessible and fun, by explaining things with simple terms (like referring to Iron Man). That’s a big deal when you’re dealing with a diverse audience. While he tries to survive, his shocked crewmates and NASA are trying to come up with a way of saving him.
I loved the film myself a lot because of all the science in it. The most astonishing fact was the realism. True, it’s in the future 2030s, but it gives the spectators an accurate view on what the future expeditions to Mars may look like. That’s the result of a huge collab between the moviemakers and NASA, which I think is really nice. My favorite moments in the film are the moments Watney is “beating” Mars’ environment with his incredible ingenuity.
But the most astonishing beautiful scene is when Watney becomes emotional when his crew mates are finally there to save him. That moment is extremely powerful.
The main character, Mark Watney, is portrayed by Matt Damon, standard first choice if the film studios are looking for a gifted but ordinary hero. He broke trough with Good Will Hunting (1997), whereby he won an Academy Award. In 2016 he also received a Golden Globe Award with The Martian.
Matt Damon does not show us the stereotype, cold-blooded, emotionless astronaut but mainly puts the focus on the human aspect, specifically the psychological facet. While he travels through the Martian landscape, he has a lot of time to think. He comes to some intriguing insights: he’s the first person to be alone on a planet; everywhere he comes he’s the first. It all has a serious psychological and emotional impact on a human being. Some people even think he turned crazy: Since Mars, by definition, belongs to international waters, he asks ground control to call him Captain Blond Beard. It’s was a difficult leading role for Matt because the character is the main part of the film on his own, but he does everything perfectly.
Another great acting performance was that of Jessica Chastain. She played the role of Melissa Lewis, the commander of the mission. She shows how hard it can be for a leading person to take difficult decisions. This is again a nice psychological aspect of how astronauts really are.
Other great aspects of the film were the shots of the Mars landscape. The external scenes were filmed in Wadi Rum, Jordan. This location has been used for numerous other films set on Mars, including The Last Days on Mars (2013), Red Planet (2000) and Mission to Mars (2000). Also, plus points for the iron-strength script, supported with visual spectacle. Thrill and excitement at its best, although there are also many quiet moments, but they’re important for the story line.
Until the end it remains uncertain whether or not the rescue operation will succeed, and you are on the edge of your seat. The Martian was rightly nominated for seven Oscars, but unfortunately did not win one.
In the end The Martian is a whirling spectacle with beautiful scenes and tremendously good acting performances that’s able to fascinate young and old from beginning till end. If Ridley Scott will continue to make movies, he’ll definitely be mentioned in the trailer as “from the director of The Martian”. I would certainly add this movie to the select group of good space movies like Interstellar and Gravity.
A must watch!
The Martian: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly Paper
The Science Fiction movie that I have decided to watch in order to write “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly” paper is called “The Martian” directed by Ridley Scott. The movie was released in in October 12, 2015 making 630.2 million in the Box Office. The movie is about a group of astronaut’s finishing up an assignment on Mar’s when they were hit by a fierce dust storm having them believe one of the astronaut team member “Mark Watney” played by “Matt Damon” presumed dead, the group then packed up to return home leaving Mark on Mars by himself. When he wakes up, Mark discovers he has an antenna sticking out of his side, which means he’s both bleeding and suffocating to death. Mark also realized that he is only a meager amount of supplies, the stranded Mark must utilize his wits and spirit to find a way to survive on the hostile planet. However, as fantastic as the movie is, they did show some unrealistic physic scenes in the movie which I will analyze are the dust storm that stranded Mark’s on Mars and Mark’s ability to lift physically massive objects. For the dust storm I will criticize the physical impossibility of it to even occur on Mars, much less its ability to throw around heavy objects. As for Mark’s super strength, I will discuss why Mark’s was able to lift things on Mars that he would otherwise not be able to on earth.
Therefore, let’s start with “The Bad”. The dust storm that led to Mark’s getting left on Mars could never happened. The movie describes the dust storm that occurred having 175 km/hr. in 1200 km diameter, bearing 24.21 degrees with the force of 8600 N which caused them to have almost zero visibility from all dust. Also, the storm was so strong that it ripped a communication array off of its mount and tossed it around to finally hitting the reception antenna and shot it through Mark’s side pulling him away from the rest of the group. The biggest problem physically with that sandstorm is that it cannot occurs on Mars the way that it is showed in the movie is due main reason, the atmospheric density on Mars. Mars atmosphere is approximately 0.8 kPa at sea level (Williams, M. January 10, 2018). Compared to Earth’s atmosphere at sea level is approximately 101 kPa (Williams, M. January 10, 2018). Which means that Mars atmosphere at sea level is only approximately 1% that of Earth’s. To get a better knowledge on what’s going of this, we have to understand what air density is.
Density by itself is a describing of how much “mass” takes up a certain volume. For example, we can say that the density of water is 1 g/ml3, that means one gram of water takes up one milliliter of volume. From this, it follows that air density is the amount of air that takes up a certain amount of volume. So, if the air density on Mars is 1% of that Earth’s, it means that there is less air occupying the same space on Mars. Another example is, if we were to hit a baseball on Mars as compared to on Earth (assuming the ball gravity is 9.8 m/s2 for both planets). If Babe Ruth were to hits a fast ball on Earth, let’s assume that the ball goes 200 feet before hitting the ground. Now, If Babe Ruth were to hits the same fastball in the same exact way but on Mars (assuming the gravity is the same as on Earth), the ball will go much further than 200 feet. That’s because the ball on Mars has less air to push out of the way than the ball on Earth (Williams, J. 2018). The lower the air density, the further thrown objects will go.
In the movie, Mark stated that Mars wind gusts can get up to 150km/hr. (Hille, K. September 18, 2015). However, these aren’t the hurricane-force winds that we are used to on earth because the air on earth is a lot less dense with nearly aren’t as much air hitting something when the wind is blowing. Therefore, while the air particles may be moving at 150 km/hr, there isn’t nearly as much air hitting on an object on Mars as there is on Earth. That means, a 150 km/hr wind gust on Mars is not nearly as intense as a 150 km/hr wind gust on Earth, simply because there isn’t nearly as much air hitting on Mars as there is on Earth. In fact, a 150 km/hr wind gust on Mars feels like a 15 km/hr wind gust on Earth (Howell, E. September 26, 2015). Which means that the colossal sandstorm that ripped a communication array out of its base and shot an antenna through Mark’s side could never have happened.
Since the dust storm could never happened, let me analyze what could happened on Mars. Which is “The Good” portion of this paper showing Mark’s ability to lift large objects, specifically a 200kg central panel from the Pathfinder probe. To my knowledge, the gravity on Mars is around -3.7 m/s2 (Williams, M. December 16, 2016), and the gravity on Earth is -9.8 m/s2. If we apply the physical definition of weight (), we see that a 200 kg object on Earth weights 1,960 N Whereas a 200kg object on Mars weights 740 N. Which means to Mark’s he is approximately 2.5 times stronger on Mars than he is on Earth, but does that also mean Mark’s would be able to lift a 200kg object by himself on Mars? I will be able to explain how Mark could physically lift large heavy objects on Mars. With examples, of the exercise called the Deadlift. Deadlift is simply how much weight a person can pick up off the ground. To start off, the average height of an American man is 1.75 meters and the average weight of an American man is 88.4 kilograms (Gill, S. February 14, 2018). Taking these average numbers, I imputed them into an average deadlift calculator. This calculator gives a person of a certain height, weight, and sex an average deadlift number. After putting the average numbers into the calculator, I got that a 1.75 meter tall 88 kilogram man averages a 1,636 N deadlift (Deadlift Standards for Men and Women).Then multiple the number by 2.5 gives us a maximum deadlift on Mars for an average man to be 4,090 N. Obviously, 740 N is substantially less than 4090 N, which means that Mark could really lift the central panel from the Pathfinder probe on Mars. Matter a fact, he could do it much easier than the movie showed.
In conclusion, Mark Watney could very well have picked up and moved the 200kg central panel from the pathfinder probe. Since the gravity on Mars is only -3.7m/s2, Mark is around 2.5 times stronger on Mars than he is on Earth. Since the average man can deadlift what would be a 4,090 N lift on Mars also the panel would weight 740 N on Mars, to that Mark could easily move that panel by himself. Lastly, the dust storm that causes Mark to be stranded on Mars could never happen because of the Air density of Mar’s atmosphere. Due to there being less air particles in the atmosphere, the wind ability to push things is severely hampered compared to the Earth’s ability to push things. In other words, the wind on Mars get up to 150 km/hr, to which it feels like 15 km/hr on earth that means there aren’t enough air particles to pick up and move heavy obstacles.
- Deadlift Standards for Men and Women (kg). (n.d.). Retrieved December 6, 2018, from https://strengthlevel.com/strength-standards/deadlift/kg#standardsMale
- Gill, S. (2018, February 14). What is the average weight for men? Retrieved December 6, 2018, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320917.php
- Hille, K. (2015, September 18). The Fact and Fiction of Martian Dust Storms. Retrieved December 4, 2018, from https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/the-fact-and-fiction-of-martian-dust-storms
- Williams, M. (2016, December 16). How Strong is the Gravity on Mars? Retrieved December 6, 2018, from https://www.universetoday.com/14859/gravity-on-mars/
- Williams, M. (2018, January 10). Mars Compared to Earth. Retrieved December 4, 2018, from https://www.universetoday.com/22603/mars-compared-to-earth/
- Williams, J. Understanding Air Density and its Effects | Coast flight. (2018). Retrieved December 4, 2018, from https://iflycoast.com/understanding-air-density-and-its-effects/
From Page to Film: ‘The Martian’ Media Comparison
The fantasy, science-fiction movie The Martian is based on the the fascinating novel The Martian by Andy Weir. The movie was directed by Ridley Scott, and was released in 2015. The story is about an astronaut (Mark Watney) who is left behind by the other astronauts on Mars when they abort their mission and are going back to Earth due to a storm, since he was presumed dead. Both the novel and the movie are pretty good and effective in developing the plot, theme, and characters. However, an important question to ask is whether the book or the movie is a better vehicle for telling the story. The novel and the movie are each good in developing certain things in the story in different ways, for instance, the novel had better character development, both of them did a somewhat good job in developing the plot, (even though the book had a bit better plot development), and lastly, different themes were developed differently by each of them. This is important because it shows how both the novel and the movie have different ways of showing theme, plot, and character development in the story, although, when deeply analyzed, the book is overall a better vehicle to tell the story (in this case and, arguably, in most cases).
One of the main developments that was addressed adeptly in both the novel and the movie was the plot. While both the film and page versions feature engaging action, the movie left out a lot of details from the book that weren’t insignificant, or they changed them to make the movie more interesting. That is understandable because movies can’t include all details from the books, in order to have the best results. For example, at the end of the movie, Commander Lewis went to take Watney back to Hermes, because their speed was too high for Watney’s Floating spaceship, when originally, it was Beck who did that in the book. Additionally, in the book, Watney says that he wants to poke a hole in his EVA suit, to use the escaping air as a thruster and “fly around like Iron Man” (Weir 353). However, this was taken as a joke in the book, but in the movie, he actually did that to reach commander Lewis in space, which was quite unrealistic even thought that was done to make the movie more thrilling and interesting. Another example would be Mark’s fifty-day long trip to the Schiaparelli Crater, which was really safe and without any problems in the movie, however, that’s about the opposite of the way it is in the novel. Moreover, Mark flips the rover on his way down the crater, faces a dead end which causes problems since he needs to avoid a storm, and many more problems which were not included in the movie. Although, having said all these, it is important to remember that some of the events were much easier to show and develop in the movie, such as the vast nothingness and void in space, through sounds, visuals, music, etc. Thus, the novel overall has a better way of developing the plot, since the events that occur in the story make more sense to the audience because of the details provided.
The second important thing, is theme development, which was developed differently by each of the novel and the movie, since they both developed certain themes in different ways better or worse than each other. For instance, the theme of isolation was shown and developed well in both the movie and the novel. However, in the movie, the theme is shown better since a theme like that is communicated better through pictures and visuals. So, when you see the vast amount of emptiness in space, the feeling of loneliness is transferred better and the audience will understand it better when they see the big void, or how Mark Watney can easily die, get stuck on Mars, or just float off into the void with one small mistake. Other themes such as perseverance, sacrifice, and friendship can be communicated better through the novel. That’s because more details are provided in the book, and that causes the audience to see the characters’ relationships with each other, their thoughts, and their motives for what they do. Other themes such as science or man against nature are explained well in different ways in both the novel and the book. The book provides formulas and specific explanations. For example, in the book Mark explains how he’s going to create water, “If I run the hydrazine over an iridium catalyst, it’ll separate into N2 and H2”(Weir 24). However, in the movie, lots of the explanatory procedures are communicated to the audience through visuals, as they see him “take hydrogen, add oxygen, and burn [them]” (Scott, 2015, Scott Free Productions). Therefore, both the novel and movie developed the themes in the story well, but using different methods.
The last but not least important development, is the development of characters in the story. The character development in the novel, is much better than the character development in the movie. That is because of how the book has much more dialogue and details, or even sometimes the readers get to know what the characters are thinking. As a result, the readers get to know the characters pretty well, and notice their development. An example would be how in the book, the audience finds out that the Ares 3 crew have “picked [Beth Johansson] to be the survivor… So, [she] won’t die even if everything goes wrong” (Weir 252). The information is given to the readers through Johansson’s conversation with her father, in which the audience finds out many things about her family, her way of thinking, personality, the group’s plans, etc. However, in the movie, parts like this have been eliminated to prevent the movie from getting long and boring. Moreover, in the movie, the audience don’t get much chance or information to get to know a lot of the characters, so then they can have opinions about them or notice their development. That’s the case for characters like Mindy Park or Beck. However, in the book more details are provided and therefore the readers can connect and understand them more. Because of the same reason, there are some other changes in the movie, too. For instance, at the end if the movie, since the actor playing Commander Lewis’ character is more well known and more important in the story, they changed the story so then in the end, she jumps out of Hermes (their spaceship) to go and grab Watney, even though in the book it was actually Beck who did that. So, the book and the movie both did a great job of developing the characters in the story.
The novel and the movie The Martian both proved effective in developing the themes, plot, and characters in the essential story. Movies and books have different ways of communicating different things to the audience, as movies communicate through visuals, sound, music, etc. and books communicate through words, the author’s writing style, and so on. However, in general, the books are usually better than the movies in communicating with the audience, since they provide more details, and other things that help them understand the story better. The Martian movie was really good compared to the other movies that are based on books, since the directors were able to professionally make the novel into a movie. However, since movies can’t give the audience as much information in a couple of hours as books do in several hundred pages, they end up leaving interesting details from the story. That’s why the Martian book, and books in general are overall better vehicles to tell the story. Though, it is important not to forget that sometimes books cannot communicate certain messages as well as the movies do, since pictures and music are really important and influential too. An example of that in this case would be how the themes “isolation” or “man against nature” were better developed in the movie. Thus, <
Faith in American Power: Space Travel on Film in ‘The Martian’
When comparing the way two mediums depict the same story, one has to take into account the limitations of each medium. Films are generally limited by length, while books are generally limited by each reader’s individual imagination. In the case of “The Martian”, this length limitation on the film not only cuts out interesting parts of the narrative, but shifts the overall tone of the text. While the bones of each text read the same, the film’s deviations from the novel shift the message from emphasizing the intelligence and luck of one man to an affirmation of American imperialism and ingenuity.
This shift establishes itself primarily in the amount of time the audience spends with the group of people on Earth. In the novel, the majority of the story happens on Mars with Mark, with some scenes from the crew of Hermes and a few scenes about NASA on Earth. In the film, NASA gets a lot more focus, perhaps to make the audience feel like they are watching it happen like everyone else on Earth. Regardless of the reasoning behind this choice, the proportion of time spent on each planet balances out to almost equal in the film, which means less focus on Mark than in the novel. Many of his significant scenes are cut in the name of a shorter runtime, which makes it more difficult to emotionally connect with his character and fails to show many of the ways in which he exemplifies his intellect and resourcefulness. Instead, the film focuses on the abilities of the scientists who are working to save him, emphasizing this group effort and a positive ideal of teamwork. While this gives the audience faith in the ability of institutions like NASA to solve these devastating problems, it also gives it a slight taint of propaganda. The scientists are shown to be incredibly intelligent and great problem-solvers, but this is a real institution being portrayed fictionally. Their ability in both the novel and the film is speculation and potentially places false hope in the American people that our scientists are smart enough to solve any problem. It takes away a lot of the responsibility that lies with Mark and subsequently, minimizes his individual importance.
This minimization becomes more prominent when Mark does not lose contact with Earth in the film. Because he consistently has people to talk to and scientists to figure things out, he seems less isolated. The film even downplays the resentment he feels toward the scientists and their tendency to micromanage him. In the novel, this resentment highlights how competent he is and paints NASA as unnecessarily controlling. He is able to function with or without them on a scientific level, and some of the biggest help they provide is actually the psychological help of human communication. Conversely, the film never takes away this communication, which makes him a weaker character. Through this, the audience does not see the full extent to which his isolation affects him mentally and does not know the problems he can solve on his own. His individual greatness is taken away in favor of this teamwork theme which highlights the greatness of the scientists and America. A lot of the significance of the novel is his utter isolation and how that affects a person, which is lost in the film. This also means some of Mark’s strength is taken away, and the audience does not see that his mental state is a big part of the reason he is able to survive for so long on Mars.
The audience is also less involved with Mark personally because of the way the film chose to do his logs. Instead of being written like in the novel, they become video journals in the film and they are not the only way through which the audience experiences him. Viewers see what he experiences directly through the cameras observing him instead of through his accounts of his activities. In losing him as the middleman, the audience becomes disconnected from him. While in the novel, the reader feels like they are on Mars with Mark, the film makes viewers feel like they are watching surveillance tapes and it makes the experience impersonal. It does not give Mark the opportunity to grow on the viewers in the same way he does in the novel. It also does not allow him to show emotional vulnerability the way he does in the novel. When he writes, it is easier to see how he feels compared to the film, where he seems to be putting up a front in his logs to appear strong and less pessimistic. He uses more jokes and sarcasm to cover his sadness. He does have moments where the observational cameras catch moments of him being truly upset, but these moments are so few that they do not make him as sympathetic as he is in the novel. Losing this connection takes away from impact of the story because he becomes more of an icon that needs saving rather than an actual person the audience can identify with.
This diminution of character happens to nearly all the characters in the film. Annie is less aggressive, Mitch has less of a fiery personality, and all of the astronauts on the Hermes lack the roundness of character they have in the novel. The filmmakers deemed these cuts necessary to make the movie fall within an expected time frame and send the message they wanted to send. In diminishing each individual, the group as a whole becomes slightly more cohesive. In reducing the conflicting personalities, discussions can take less time while dually emphasizing this idea of all working together toward a national goal. The most discursive of the administrators is Mitch, and he has a British accent, potentially to delineate him from the group and further justify his insubordination. The other administrators are connected by their American nationality and their belief in the greatness of space missions. These two elements combined create this theme of imperialism that exists throughout both the film and the novel.
The novel’s references to imperialism are more understated than those in the film, but the most poignant is the fact that Mark “colonized” Mars by planting potatoes on it. He also names a few things on Mars, which also follows the imperialism theme. Because this is such a common theme in science fiction, it would be odd if it were not present. The book does a better job of painting these actions as unnecessary, and highlights all the dangers mankind puts itself through in order to obtain this goal. In contrast, the movie writes these space travels as proof of outstanding American power. The director of the Mars missions knows that if he tells Teddy he wants to use the satellites so they could potentially have another mission, Teddy will be more likely to allow it. This betrays the NASA director’s insatiable desire for space travel. He always wants more, which is again seen when he decides the Hermes crew should not go back for Mark. He says, “We still have a chance to bring five astronauts home safe and sound. I’m not risking their lives,” he is essentially saying that he is not willing to take the risk of an entire mission crew dying, even if it is the safest option, because he will not be able to do any further missions (The Martian). This is imperialism masked by strict logic. While there is a logical explanation for not risking these lives, his motivations for making this choice are unfortunately driven by public perception. He knows that if powerful Americans do not back the idea of space exploration, he will no longer be able to do it. And finally, at the end of the film, another Ares mission is being sent to Mars, showing that Americans are still willing to spend insane amounts of money and risk lives to go to a planet seventeen people have already been to. While there are scientific discoveries to be made, one must question if those discoveries are worth the effort put into the program.
The film celebrates this progress, even in the wake of all the problems it had caused. In contrast, the novel seems to have the idea that getting one person trapped on Mars is enough for a lifetime. It emphasizes that this imperialistic drive towards space is, in some ways, doomed because no country can own things from space. All of this work and money is in the name of science and bragging rights. While it is not as bad as it could be, this theme of imperialism in the movie makes the story feel less authentic and diminishes Mark Watney’s character to a shell of what it could have been. The filmmakers chose to cut significant character development to send a positive message about American space travel, sacrificing crucial plot points to serve an agenda. The novel (especially with the original ending) seems to better represent the thoughts of an individual, instead of the thoughts of a production company that are emphasized in the film. The novel does not shy away from the gritty and difficult parts of the story, but the film glosses over them to encourage further space travel and faith in American power.