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Mars Movies NASA

Former NASA Mission Controller James Oberg Lauds 'The Martian' 55

At IEEE Spectrum, James Oberg gives high praise to the upcoming film The Martian (release date: October 2). Oberg doesn't have much to say about the acting; he concentrates on the physics and plausibility of the plot and the technology portrayed, which beat those of most Hollywood space epics, and notes in particular "There’s no cheating on even highly-technical spaceflight topics, as shown in the treatment of the so-called “Rich Purnell maneuver,” wherein the Hermes slingshots past Earth back to Mars for a desperate pickup attempt. ... The basic strategy of the Rich Purnell maneuver is not fictional—a crippled Japanese Mars probe named Nozomi actually used a similar Earth-flyby scheme to set up a second chance for its own faltering unmanned Mars mission a dozen years ago." Oberg's background gives his appraisal some weight -- he's a former NASA mission controller who specialized in orbital rendezvous maneuvers. He has some quibbles, too, with the way mission personnel are depicted, and notes one excursion into "fantasy mode" near the fim's close, but concludes that it's a fair trade for the overwhelming sense of realism.
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Former NASA Mission Controller James Oberg Lauds 'The Martian'

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  • It was short but very interesting. I like how he gave a "spoiler alert" without actually revealing much. I haven't seen the film yet, but I'm looking forward to it. His only complaint was that Mission Control personnel jumped up and cheered upon liftoff of the mission, which would never happen in real life. Other than that, he pretty much loved it.

    • by MrNaz ( 730548 ) on Saturday September 19, 2015 @02:11PM (#50556607) Homepage

      It's good when the science is accurate, that doesn't happen often enough. I remember watching the Ninja Turtles movie and practically screaming at my wife:

      Me: They just got bled almost dry and now they're being given ADRENALINE?! That wouldn't wake them up, it'd put them into cardiac arrest!!!
      Her: It's a movie about sewer dwelling mutant turtles, taught by a mutant rat, fighting a ninja war in America, and THAT'S your plot hole?

    • If that was his main issue... The entire story is based on a storm on Mars creating havoc. That's insane. The atmosphere on Mars is so thin a storm would barely topple a Barbie Doll standing on one leg. It wouldn't topple any kind of space faring vehicle!
  • Having read the original book [] (and would highly recommend it), I still expect to be disappointed by the film adaptation. The science in the film may be solid, and we can indeed be grateful for that, but there are other aspects of adapting a novel where Hollywood can make the result feel compromised. Think of all the tired old tropes they could throw in there, like slow-motion shots of characters at poignant times, an intrusive film score that tries to jerk the audience emotionally in a particular direction, or the acting itself where it's hard to suspend disbelief when it's Matt Damon up there and he's not known for smoothly entering into roles and going unrecognized as Matt Damon.
    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Saturday September 19, 2015 @11:26AM (#50555861) Homepage

      I'm hoping for just the opposite. I read as much of the book as I could stomach. The plot idea was excellent, but the writing was terrible, like an 15-year-old boy wrote it, and the level of understanding of science about equal to that of your average 15-year-old. Almost every page made me want to hit my head into a wall.

      However, I'm hoping that the movie will be better, and there's some signs that maybe it will be. For example, compared to the laughably absurd way in which the potatoes were grown in the book, in the trailer for The Martian one can see a grow tent with light coming in from the skylights. Anyone who knows anything about plants can still see that there's still way too little space and energy input to produce enough to keep a person alive, but at least it's not the 2-3 orders of magnitude off like in the book (among literally dozens of other reasons that plot point alone as presented in the book wouldn't have worked, among dozens of other plot-points that were head-wall-bangingly bad). I'm hopeful that they've gone through and fixed most of the plot holes and bad science, and will be left with an at least somewhat plausible movie based on the (quite good) "castaway on Mars" premise.

      • It's entertainment.
      • I've only read fragments of the book and seen the trailer.
        But the writing... Your 15-year-old boy writer may be having some development issues.
        E.g. That bit about "space pirate"... that's just... retarded.
        I get the context, really I do. And I'm not even gonna go into the whole "The Egg" thing.

        But a grown human acting like that in that situation would NOT be in that situation cause that human would not pass the psych tests.
        Besides that... It is twaddle that serves no other purpose but to make the character o

        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

          Seriously, WHY? Why "bring him home"? Who gives a fuck about him? Why should anyone care about bringing HIM home at this point?
          There's no attachment for the audience to that character. Emotional or otherwise.
          Poster tells NOTHING about that character. It goes out of its way to say nothing with that face expression of his, or the lack thereof.
          Unless the idea is that we should "bring him home" because "Matt Damon"?
          And that's just... stupid. Like cheering when Amon Goeth murders Jews because "OMG! Ralph Fiennes

          • You missed the point completely. Reread what I said.

            Poster used to promote movie is without any kind of emotional or factual or logical information.
            And what IS there - is contradictory or meaningless.

            "Bring him home."

            Bring who home? Why? From where? Whose home? What for? Is this a commercial for something? For what?
            Who is this emotionless, expressionless guy and why should I care? Is he an actor? A historical figure?
            Is he real? A robot? What is he selling? Is he the product? Who? What? How? Where? When? Why

    • I'm more than a little put off by the cringe-worthy "science the shit out of this thing" line from one of the trailers. Ugh.

  • Yeah, had Ridley hired decent scientific advisers for Prometheus, it could have been a decent film.

    Luckily the Martian was written by a person who's got a scientific background and the scriptwriters didn't butcher the book.

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      Luckily the Martian was written by a person who's got a scientific background


      In the same way The Flintstones was written by a paleontologist.

  • It wouldn't be all that hard to impress with the tech if the producer cares. Just get the basics right.
    1) Do the thrusters go "chuffff", "chuffff" out in space when they activate?
    2) Do you hear the rocket motors out in space?
    3) Does it avoid Magic Gravity inside the space ship in space?
    4) Are there stupid fins to support fake maneuvering in space?
    5) Does the rocket motor thrust all the time, and if it stops, does the space ship act about to crash?

    Some; far from all; of the early space opera was surprisingly

    • I find it odd that you rail on the 2003 era BSG remake, because on most of these points, it did far better than any of its predecessors. Was it perfect? No, but on the grading curve of modern sci-fi accuracy (nevermind compared to the "real" one you laud), it was pretty damn good for how it handled its space battles, physics, etc. Pretty much the only exception was #3, within the confines of any of the large ships, but when out in the fighters, it was pretty apparent.
  • A little warning would have been nice...
    • by Anonymous Coward

      He "dies" at the end, and then gets reborn as a fetus, slowly turning his head to look at the camera.

    • by Teancum ( 67324 )

      Like it spoiled much of anything if you watch the movie. It certainly isn't something like telling people Luke is Darth Vader's son or that Princess Leia is his sister (which really makes watching Star Wars episode IV sort of awkward in some scenes).

      I just want to see how many times Matt Damon drops the f-bomb in the movie? Andy Weir uses it about a dozen times in the first chapter and is even the first word of the book.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Great! I'm about half-way through the audiobook and it keeps cracking me up. The plot is great, but the character in the book "Mark Watney" has such a great sense of humor that he displays during stress (and he pretty much is constantly stressed considering his situation.) that it is a riot to listen to his log narration.

    So far, great audiobook. No complaints.

Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd. - Voltaire