The last film about space I watched was Interstellar.  My wife wouldn’t watch it with me. She suspected it would get all scientific. Well, movie scientific, anyway. She was right.

I liked the film, but the science (which I know was done carefully) gets wonky and farfetched in the end. Still, I’m planning to watch another space film, The Martian , when it comes out in November.

The novel it is based on is a first novel by Andy Weir. It is science fiction. An American astronaut, Mark Watney, becomes stranded alone on Mars and must improvise in order to survive. A review I had read described it as Apollo 13 meets Cast Away.

You never know how a film adaptation will turn out, but the director is Ridley Scott and it stars Matt Damon. That’s a good start.

The author is the son of a particle physicist and I had read that he researched the science to be as realistic as possible based on existing technology.

It has an interesting publishing history. Weir hadn’t had success with publishers in the past, so he put The Martian online in serial format one chapter at a time for free at his website, and the he made an Amazon Kindle version available at 99 cents. That is where I found it on the advice of a friend.

It sold 35,000 copies in three months, got the attention of publishers, was “legitimately” published and debuted on the New York Times Best Seller list on March 2, 2014

I watched the Official Trailer for the film. The basic story is there. Stranded alone on Mars with few supplies, Watney must survive and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Back on Earth, scientists work to bring home “the Martian” and his crewmates also plan a rescue mission.


The story reminded me of an old sci-fi film, Robinson Crusoe on Mars. This 1964 film is a science fiction retelling of the classic novel Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Dafoe.

It sounds like it would be a truly “B” film, but is more thoughtful than you would expect. I hope the same will be true of The Martian.

A spaceship crash landing on Mars leaves astronaut Paul Mantee abandoned. He must figure out how to survive in this hostile environment. (They shot most of the film in Death Valley.) Now hang on to your credulity. He is aided by a monkey from his ship.

It is a vote of quality that the DVD of this film is one of the Criterion Collection which gives it a nice presentation including a commentary track, interviews, a featurette and an odd little “music video.”

Before the 1960s, all the sci-fi about Mars was about aliens that lived there. Now, the “Martians” are us.

If you want to follow The Martian film pre-release: