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Review: The Martian 242

I was both pleased and disappointed, as always, when I heard that a book I enjoyed was being made into a movie. Andy Weir's The Martian was the best new book I'd read in years. It was written for nerds, by a nerd — by somebody with an obvious love for NASA, science, and spaceflight. How could it possibly be condensed into the format of a Hollywood blockbuster? Well, director Ridley Scott and screenwriter Drew Goddard figured out how. The Martian is an excellent film, well worth watching. Read on for my review (very minor spoilers only), and feel free to share your own in the comments.

Let's briefly discuss the book, first. If you haven't read it, I recommend doing so. In short: near-future astronaut Mark Watney gets stranded on the surface of Mars, and must figure out how to stay alive using only the limited resources at hand. This is hard science fiction. Weir meticulously researched all the problems facing Watney, without giving him magically advanced technology to defeat them.

The story is largely told through Watney's journal updates, which read remarkably like following a brilliant engineer's blog while he solves fascinating problems. Weir also infuses Watney with dry humor and an unwillingness to be told that the right way is wrong. For being so dense with science and engineering, the book manages to have a rapid pace.

Fortunately, that pace made the transition to film a bit easier, as did the book's narrative form. Watney's thought processes tend to be spoken, rather than a typical internal monologue, and this keeps it more conversational and brief. In the novel, when Watney has to "do the math" — for example to figure out the hydrogen levels in his living space — you follow along as he actually does the math, then as he develops a procedure to safely lower those levels. The movie tackles this complex scene by making him discover the problem right when it begins, with a small amount of hydrogen igniting dramatically. It keeps the science and the problem-solving, but conveys it quickly and moves on.

That's the real triumph of this movie's creators — they accelerate the plot while maintaining the book's love and respect for science and for thoughtful engineering. They embellish for interesting visuals, like the martian wind, and for dramatic license. But they never go over the top. It's... refreshing, to say the least.

One thing the film does even better than the book is bringing intensity to particular scenes. It's one thing to read Watney's account of how he dealt with an emergency in past tense — it's another to see it as it's happening. The first scene of Watney alone on Mars is incredibly tense and visceral.

This is largely due to Matt Damon's performance as Watney (and to Ridley Scott, for enabling that performance). Damon does a great job coming off not as a movie superhero, but as a funny, capable guy you might run into at your local makerspace. The other roles in the film are well cast and performed, too. Jeff Daniels as the director of NASA is the closest the movie gets to having a 'bad guy.'

He's the one who tends to raise the practical and ethical questions surrounding Watney's predicament. How many resources should be allocated to helping a single man? What will be the cost to future missions if they don't? They're impossible questions to answer, but they deserved to be brought up and debated.

One of the big reasons to see this film is for its cinematography. If you're a space buff, you'll really enjoy the long, lingering shots of the Martian surface. The graphic artists really deserve commendation. They make the landscape look both desolate and fascinating. They had lots of source material to work with from all the rovers and orbiters we've sent to Mars, and they used it to fill each scene with incredible detail. Look carefully and you'll see one of Mars's lumpy moons in the background of a shot on the surface, or a dust storm slowly flowing across a vast mesa when looking down from orbit.

The Martian, much like Apollo 13 twenty years ago, inspires us to cheer on our civilization's brightest scientists and engineers to solve hideously complex problems. NASA has been falling all over itself to help promote the film, and for good reason. I think the reception of this film will show support is still there from the general public to go and do really challenging missions. The Martian the best movie I've seen all year, and I highly recommend it.

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Review: The Martian

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  • >> support is still there from the general public to go and do really challenging missions

    Sure, it's there until the next commercial break when we're told we're awful people for trying to pay for it by cutting back on military/social/pork. The answer always seems to be "we need more taxes"...

    • Re:Nerdgasm (Score:4, Funny)

      by FUD fighter ( 2754911 ) on Monday October 05, 2015 @01:30PM (#50662873)
      WE don't need more taxes. THEY do.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What, as opposed to the bullshit claim that by cutting the taxes of corporations and the wealthy somehow that improves everybody's lives?

      Because that fucking lie has utterly failed to work for the last several decades. In fact, it has had the opposite effect.

      We need to stop buying the lie that cutting taxes for the wealthy and the corporations in any way helps anybody but the wealthy and corporations who paid off the politicians.

      • Re:Nerdgasm (Score:4, Insightful)

        by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Monday October 05, 2015 @01:41PM (#50662969)

        >> as opposed to the claim that by cutting the taxes of corporations and the wealthy somehow that improves everybody's lives

        No, as opposed to the claim that we need to keep raising taxes/fees on middle class working people, which is what actually continues to happen. (Need a recent example? Go see Chicago...and the huge property tax increase they just pushed through.)

        Where to cut? How about pensions, which are currently 25% of our total federal spend, and are the line item choking a lot of state and local governments too. Or the military at 22% of current spend. In other words, switch government employees to a 401K systems (even with more pay to make up the difference) or drop a couple of carrier groups from the Navy (maybe kill the F-35), and you'd have billions upon billions to spend on things taxpayers actually want, like NASA.

        • Are you really sure the general populous cares about NASA? People on this site may care, but that's a tiny fraction of the population. I would say that the average person really doesn't care that much about space travel.

          Even people interested in the idea of going to Mars probably don't understand how astronomically (pun intended) difficult it would be to send people there. Apollo 11, the first Lunar mission was only in space for under 9 days, And the longest lunar stay was Apollo 17 with a 3 day stay on t

          • Re:Nerdgasm (Score:5, Informative)

            by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Monday October 05, 2015 @02:03PM (#50663181)

            "About three quarters of Americans view NASA favorably – second only to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention among federal agencies – according to a 2013 Pew Research survey." (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/04/23/americans-keen-on-space-exploration-less-so-on-paying-for-it/)

            • Did you even read the article you linked to? The headline of the article is:

              Americans keen on space exploration, less so on paying for it

              And here's a quote

              Despite these positive opinions of the space program, just a two-in-ten Americans in the 2012 GSS survey said that the U.S. spends too little on space exploration. Four-in-ten believed the current spending was adequate, while three-in-ten believed further cuts should be made to the program. Instead, Americans strongly preferred increased spending on progr

        • Re:Nerdgasm (Score:5, Insightful)

          by mlw4428 ( 1029576 ) on Monday October 05, 2015 @02:07PM (#50663229)
          Ah, yes. 401(K)s. I sure want to put my retirement in the hands of the same people who created a bubble market in the US and then bet against the value of the dollar in international exchanges right as they popped it. I feel MUCH safer leaving money in the hands of private sector morons who get to drive $1 million cars in NYC,
          • You mean something like this [apple.com]?
            Seriously... how did the 401K become the predominant retirement vehicle in the U.S., anyway? Does it REALLY make sense to expect markets to increase in value without limit, at a sufficient rate to keep retirees alive? Does it really make sense to expect every American to be a part-time investor, or expect commercial retirement funds to "do the right thing" and invest everybody's nest eggs wisely and successfully? Maybe pensions sound like "wasteful spending" these days, but t

          • Ah, yes. 401(K)s. I sure want to put my retirement in the hands of the same people who created a bubble market in the US ...

            You do realize that investing in a 401k does not require you to invest in stocks and bonds? An interest bearing cash option is available, much like a savings account. Even with the historically low average interest rate your return will most likely outperform social security, especially with employer matches.

            Of course if you are decades away from retirement bubbles aren't a problem. When stock prices crash when the bubble breaks your 401k deductions are buying stocks at a cheaper price. That 2007 crash,

        • None of this will help though... the super wealthy are tying up more and more wealth outside of the economy which is causing a deflationary environment.

      • What, your life is much worse over the last several decades?

        Interesting. Everyone else i know is better off than they were 30 years ago.

        Which doesn't mean that cutting corporate taxes is a good thing, but it's hard to find evidence it's made everyone's lives worse....

      • Since Corporate taxes are almost always less than Individual taxes, deductions for expenses are automatic, cutting corporate taxes to zero would increase tax revenue.

      • What, as opposed to the bullshit claim that by cutting the taxes of corporations and the wealthy somehow that improves everybody's lives?

        Actually cutting taxes and closing loopholes could work quite nicely, the later offsetting the former, generating the same revenue for the government.

        What does not work so well is what we are currently doing. Having high tax rates and lots and lots of loopholes. The former allowing some politicians to make "we're getting money from the rich" claims while the later simultaneously lets corporations and people not actually make those payments implied by the former.

        The current system is an incredible engi

      • One last time, and try to pay attention this time. Corporations DO NOT pay taxes; they simply collect the $$ from us and send it to the government. WE the people pay all of the taxes.

        For example, if you raise the taxes on xyz corporation, they will simply raise the prices of their products/services to keep their bottom line the same. They have to if they want to make a profit. Prices have to go up to cover the company's obligations. It has happened time after time after time, to the point where I thought ev
  • It was one of those movies where the audience actually applauded at the end. I thought it was extremely well done -- compelling story, great acting, phenomenal FX. Ridley Scott made a great movie. The one scene that really shocked and made me question the science behind it was when they used a parachute to cover the open nose cone of a rocket for a space launch from Mars. Is that really possible? Mars has an atmosphere, wouldn't anyone inside the capsule be killed?
    • by MrKevvy ( 85565 ) on Monday October 05, 2015 @01:28PM (#50662847)

      Mars' atmosphere has about 0.6% of the pressure of Earth's atmosphere at STP. So that part works with this part of the movie, but strongly against a Martian windstorm being able to blow over spaceships, etc. It's enough to move dust around, and that's all.

      • by kwiecmmm ( 1527631 ) on Monday October 05, 2015 @01:45PM (#50663003)

        I read an interview with Weir that says that the Windstorm on Mars is the one thing that couldn't have happened as it did in the book. But it was necessary to strand Watney.

        The other thing that is mentioned is the radioactive heater (OK it was a power source, but it is only used for the heat it gives off) that Watney retrieves. At the moment it is possible, just not surviving being close to it, but this could change in the near future. The book is set around 2030, so this one could be possible by then.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The other thing that is mentioned is the radioactive heater (OK it was a power source, but it is only used for the heat it gives off) that Watney retrieves. At the moment it is possible, just not surviving being close to it

          Slashdot reader "Rei" would disagree with you. He says that the radioactive materials inside an RTG are just "alpha particle" emitters, and alpha particles are a not-that-dangerous sort of radiation.

          In fact "Rei" criticises Andy Weir for not knowing how relatively safe an RTG is:

          http://s [slashdot.org]

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Pu-238 (which really is what you build those with, the Apollo missions used them) only emits significant quantities of alpha particles - which you really /can/ basically stand next to something producing with no particular ill effects. They're high-energy helium nuclei. Paper or your /skin/ is enough to stop them, and we build them with a layer or two of solid metal structure around them to keep them quite safe when we're building RTGs.

          Now, if you eat or breathe the contents, and you'll probably die.

          I don't

        • A Plutonium-238 RTG is an alpha emitter. All of its radiation is stopped by the casing. As long as you don't cut it open and eat the fuel, you're good.

        • by Holi ( 250190 )
          Are you talking about the RTG? I am pretty sure they only emit alpha radiation, I mean as long as the casing does not break I don't think it could harm you in the slightest.
      • Mars' atmosphere has about 0.6% of the pressure of Earth's atmosphere at STP.

        I'm pretty sure that anything, Mars's atmosphere included, is 100% of Earth's atmosphere at STP.

        ~Loyal

      • While I loved the repairing the cracked visor with duct tape scene, I have to say the repairing the blown out hatch with duct tape and polyethylene film stretched credulity to the breaking point.

        We are to believe that patch could hold the difference between basically full vacuum and one Earth atmosphere air pressure.
        Then why is the rest of the hab apparently made of apparently 3+ inch thick metal / carbon fibre or whatever?

        Also, with an open hatch patched with a thick plastic bag, the heating system of the

        • They probably used polyethylene film for the movie, but in the book, it's described as some kind of super-plastic sheeting. And it's not just duct tape. I agree, they probably should have made it look different in the movie.
        • He was supposed to be using hab material (and later they showed the same stuff as hab material) not just polyethylene. Also, he used some aviation tape (my guess from visual, it wasn't duct tape) which would be stronger tape than the duct tape he uses on his facemask.

          However, when a scene later the dust storm is blowing the patch in and out...yeah...not possible. The atmosphere isn't that much to be able to invert the patch, or make it flap in the wind.

          The hab is supposed to be made out of a laminated fab

        • We are to believe that patch could hold the difference between basically full vacuum and one Earth atmosphere air pressure.

          Note that a standard bicycle tire is inflated to 2+ atmosphere net pressure. As high as nine atmospheres for racing tires. A one atmosphere pressure differential isn't really all that big in the Real World (tm).

          And consider a one inch (2.5cm) diameter hole. Slap ducttape onto it and try to push your finger through the hole (from the side with the tape to the side without. One atmos

        • A Mars expedition wouldn't carry duct tape, but aircraft speed tape. Think of it as being Duct Tape Pro.

    • The parachute was explained quite a bit in the book, and Weir actually pointed it out as an inconsistency (air pressure enough to fling an antenna, but not enough to matter on take off). In the movie, they utterly failed that part of the book, the parachute instead of nosecone was the whole reason for the altitude/speed differential, but all it got in the movie was "its fighting me" from the pilot.

    • For a contrarian view... I really don't understand why everyone thinks this movie was so well-made. I loved the book and was eagerly anticipating the movie, especially after all the reviews calling it a gripping, edge-of-your-seat thriller.

      I didn't get any of the sense of impending danger and claustrophobia that I did from the book. Sure, he ran into some problems but he solved them so quickly there wasn't that "holy crap, what will he do now?" notion that his demise was always just around the corner.

      (warni

  • by Hussman32 ( 751772 ) on Monday October 05, 2015 @01:23PM (#50662809)

    I liked the movie a lot, and I was surprised about how almost everything in the book made it into the movie. Then I realized it was because the book was short. The Lord of the Rings is great, there is no way to put all of the material into the movie when you have 10 times the words that the script needs.

    Of course there were a million nits, technical and otherwise, but they made a good movie from a good story.

    • I liked the movie a lot, and I was surprised about how almost everything in the book made it into the movie.

      Sort of. They still skipped out a lot of the description of what he's doing and why, which I thought was some of the best parts of the books. For example, there wasn't much description of how he calculated how much water he needed, why he was mixing poop in with the soil, or what he was modifying in the rover. I can understand why they did it-- it would be potentially boring and confusing to an audience who didn't understand the science. Still, I felt like there could have been a little more of him desc

      • The hydrozine part was considerably changed, and they never explained why he modified the roof of the rover. They also got rid of his "tent" and just had him laying on the rover, which was odd. All the trailer and RTG modifications also got lost, and his tumble into the crater near the end.

    • by sbaker ( 47485 )

      There were some big chunks missing in the movie. In the book, he has to spell out messages in rocks on the ground that the orbiters can photograph because there isn't enough space in his vehicle to haul the old rover landing platform around. Also, in the book, he manages to roll the rover over just before reaching the launch site. In the movie, you only see him watching one episode of some 1960's TV series - and he's mostly complaining about the disco music...in the book, he watches every episode of a

      • by Holi ( 250190 )
        "In the book, he has to spell out messages in rocks on the ground that the orbiters can photograph because there isn't enough space in his vehicle to haul the old rover landing platform around."

        Did you even read the book????
        He did not communicate with rocks because he couldn't fit the pathfinder in the rover with him, he fried it leaning the modified drill against the rover.

        "- but the book is definitely worth a read." - Then I suggest you actually read it.
    • I liked the movie a lot, and I was surprised about how almost everything in the book made it into the movie.

      Actually quite a bit was left out. In particular note the "7 months later" notice that is briefly on the screen.

      Was it 7 or did I misremember the number of months? In any case many months of activity and drama were skipped. If someone reads the book after seeing the movie there will be plenty of new interesting stuff.

      Still, a very reasonable compromise given time constraints and overall a very good adaptation of a book IMO. Only one somewhat regrettable hollywood'ism near the end of the rescue. Quite

  • by addikt10 ( 461932 ) on Monday October 05, 2015 @01:24PM (#50662813)

    I really enjoyed the movie adaptation of the book.
    For me, the cut the right bits, had a wink and a nod for those that had read the book. They kept the movie manageable and enjoyable...

    Except that I didn't like their choices in the last 15 minutes. Without spoilers, an idea dismissed as ludicrous in the book was nonetheless implemented in the movie, and it annoyed me a bit.

    That said, read the book. See the movie. And if you are in to that sort of thing, the audiobook is really quite enjoyable as well.

    • by sehryan ( 412731 )

      Agreed on the ending bit. I was already perturbed when Lewis donned the suit (though I can understand the reason for the character shift), but then the Iron Man solution was completely unnecessary. The book version was quite tense as it was written.

    • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      Far more realistic and possible than any of the fast and furious movies.

  • Phenomenal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dmaul99 ( 1895836 ) on Monday October 05, 2015 @01:27PM (#50662843)

    I read the book twice and was kind of apprehensive of how Sir Ridley would take this on. Would he neuter the science to make it more accessible? Introduce stuff that wasn't in the book at all to make it more blockbuster-y? Would there be some love interest stuff that isn't in the book? Would he remove the gory details of the potato farming to not gross out the audience?

    Nope, it stayed very very true to the book. And the scenes at NASA were very very good, I did not get impatient and think "come on get back to Mars". They really captured Watney's personality while giving the audience a real appreciation of the situation he was in. I went to see it twice, it was that good.

    Matt Damon nails it. I know it's hip to hate on him but he's a damn fine actor and also the Bourne movies were great, he can pull off the action hero very well.

    The supporting cast does a great job. Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) is true to the character in the book as are all the NASA people. Jeff Daniels is phenomenal. The only tiny teeny complaint I have is they changed the Venkat Kapoor character to be named Vincent Kapoor, but very capably played by academy award winner Chiwetel Ejiofor. They should still have kept his character as Indian but I guess they didn't want to give him an accent, that would have been much worse. Annoying debate has raged on this point on the IMDB boards ever since the casting choice was made but final consensus (by non-SJW reasonable people) is that it was simply a matter of availability of actors who could pull off the role. Chiwetel Ejiofor was a great choice.

    I hope this movie gets all the Oscars coming to it. Best picture, best director, best actor. 10/10. Fantastic.

    • They had intended to have Irrfan Khan play Venkat, but he wasn't available. Can't blame them for having Chiwetel, he is an excellent actor.

    • Would there be some love interest stuff that isn't in the book?

      There was actually less of a love interest than in the book, they only alluded to it in the movie with a kiss to a visor and a credits scene.

  • Although the biggest problem of the movie was totally obvious right from the start -- there are no violent sandstorms on Mars.

    But apart from that, good movie.

  • by Slartibartfast ( 3395 ) * <ken AT jots DOT org> on Monday October 05, 2015 @01:38PM (#50662945) Homepage Journal

    The Martian did it.

  • Gravity ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BaronAaron ( 658646 ) on Monday October 05, 2015 @01:42PM (#50662979)

    The force, not the movie.

    I was hoping this would be the first sci-fi movie to get the gravity right on Mars.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvnDIDqcfGI [youtube.com]

    I have no idea how they could have accomplished this from a SFX perspective and maybe it wouldn't have added to the story. I was disappointed with the scene where he was disassembling the MAV and the pieces were falling to the surface at a very Earth-like speed. Seemed like a easy place to add a little SFX magic to mimic Mars gravity.

    Great movie overall though!

    • by Stavr0 ( 35032 )

      Mars Landing Hoax.

      Watney is playing all that in a soundstage somewhere in Nevada. That's why gravity is all wrong. It's all a plot to increase NASA funding and to stick it to the Russkies. ...

      I'm sorry, that was the plot to Capricorn One. Carry on.

    • by Cyberax ( 705495 )
      They did it in a couple of scenes. You might notice that when Mark throws stuff (like crates) it falls significantly slower than on Earth. But I guess we'll have to wait for the realistic gravity depiction until we can get a movie set on the actual Mars.
  • An excellent talk [youtu.be] by Andy about his start at writing, his job as a coder, and how the book and movie came to be. Very entertaining viewing. Super down-to-earth guy (heh...)

  • Maybe one or two fewer plot twists like the space capture at the end. That was too much like Gravity.
    • Agreed - I remember thinking during that bit "please dont use a fire extinguisher please dont use a fire extinguisher please dont use a fire extinguisher please dont use a fire extinguisher"... and then the Iron Man bit left me thinking a fire extinguisher would have been better. Mostly I thought NASA and Watney would have known that rendezvous would have been nearly impossible with neither the MAV nor ARES having maneuvering thrusters, and could have built one from the hydrazine bottle and palladium he alr
  • These modern remakes always change things for no good reason. I much preferred Robinson Crusoe on Mars [imdb.com]. After all, you gotta love the plot:

    Stranded on Mars with only a monkey as a companion, an astronaut must figure out how to find oxygen, water, and food on the lifeless planet.

    And it even has Adam West in it (and no - he's not the Monkey)

    • Stranded on Mars with only a monkey as a companion, an astronaut must figure out how to find oxygen, water, and food on the lifeless planet.

      Well, I suppose the monkey would solve the food problem, at least for a while.

  • by Tailhook ( 98486 ) on Monday October 05, 2015 @02:13PM (#50663293)

    Watched it last night. Didn't read the book.

    How in the name of all stupid plot devices does each and every space suit, vehicle, structure and other large chunk of habitat equipment not have its own, independent up-link to the multiple Earth-Mars radio relays we already have in orbit around that planet? I squirmed for the first hour because that was too much disbelief to suspend; over the years as habitat equipment appeared on the surface prior to habitation a big collection of radio equipment would unavoidably accrete; they'd be tripping over redundant radio gear.

    Maybe the book has some rationale for the mystifying lack of otherwise ubiquitous radio equipment and we can pin it on bad movie making. If the book tries the "lack of funding" trope I'll laugh; so the habitat isn't monitored because Republicans or whatever, yet NASA instantly picks up a signal some (now) ancient lander? Pfft.

    • by elcid73 ( 599126 )

      Good question. I don't know exactly how many radios we have around Mars right now- but yeah, the book does describe how the initial "abort" sequence (that leads to his stranding) damages all the radio equipment they have with them to talk to earth. All the suits, vehicles, etc are only designed to talk to other (ie- local/near) and not long haul to earth. Not sure how realistic that is, but that's what I got from the book.

    • Probably for the same reason most people don't use satellite phones: Costs.

      Not only monetary for the equipment, but also power costs and latency costs. It makes more sense to have all the "local" comms being short range and only then route them via a long range link when needed.

      If you want another example think about internet: You could potentially have every net node conect to all other nodes up to a certain range, but it's a way better idea to have a tree architecture.
      • by Tailhook ( 98486 )

        Costs

        Piffle. Satellite phones can be had for less than $300 on Amazon. Mars explorers would be walking around in multi-million dollar suits filled with pumps, heaters and cameras all sucking on monster batteries. The cost of a transponder, in both money and power, would be lost in the noise. And that's just the suit radios; the giant rover would have multiple radios as well.

        Face it. It doesn't make any sense. There are only two possibilities; the author is ignorant, or the author assumed ignorant readers

    • by nojayuk ( 567177 )

      How in the name of all stupid plot devices does each and every space suit, vehicle, structure and other large chunk of habitat equipment not have its own, independent up-link to the multiple Earth-Mars radio relays we already have in orbit around that planet?

      Worked example -- the Apollo moonsuits had a short-range VHF link back to the Lunar Lander. From there the radio comms was via an S-band microwave link back to Earth. There was no direct link from the suits to the Command Module in orbit, even when it

    • by shess ( 31691 )

      How in the name of all stupid plot devices does each and every space suit, vehicle, structure and other large chunk of habitat equipment not have its own, independent up-link to the multiple Earth-Mars radio relays we already have in orbit around that planet? I squirmed for the first hour because that was too much disbelief to suspend; over the years as habitat equipment appeared on the surface prior to habitation a big collection of radio equipment would unavoidably accrete; they'd be tripping over redundant radio gear.

      Yeah, this bugged me, too. AFAICT the overall idea was that they did all these earlier missions to land supplies and stuff, but they didn't have a literal constellation of satellites in orbit to allow reasonable communications? Some of the responses to your post ask things like why we don't have sat phones, etc ... well, there's a difference between a few billion people with communications devices and six of them.

      Additionally, mars geosync orbit should be lower, and the atmosphere shouldn't block as much

  • by nsxdavid ( 254126 ) <dw&play,net> on Monday October 05, 2015 @02:37PM (#50663493) Homepage

    But, I was seriously disappointing in the film. Not due to the book, since I have not read it. But because it gave the impression it was going to have some sort of scientifically-accurate veneer on it.

    But as the story unfolded, I immediately started to shake my head and smack my forehead in disbelief at the blatant nonsense of the film from a science standpoint.

    It would take an immense post to cover all of the things that wrong both scientifically, practically or procedurally. For those interested, I'll cover as many as I can before fatigue sets in. This is based on the film, not the book.

    Launching a space-ship in a violent storm. So violent that it is pushing the dang thing over. Obviously one could argue it was designed for that, but I see no reason to believe it was from the movie.

    Watney is hit by debris and whisked away. An astronaut asks how long he could survive if his suit was breached (or something like that). A) That question would not be asked, they would know. B) The answer is not whatever they said (1 minute or something) but rather 3 minutes (max, which is what they'd be concerned with).

    Watney is in left on the surface, and wakes up the next.... day, I guess. O2 is low, apparently, but otherwise in pretty good sleep. Suit or no, he would have faced freezing to death. Quite often the film deals with cold one moment and then ignores it the next.

    Funny thing... he used a normal Hero camera to do his vlogging... yet the results as shown were 3D. :)

    Watney talks about the awful things that can go wrong. The final one he says something like, "... and if the hab fails... I'll implode!" Implode? You don't implode in a thin atmosphere! Or even zero-atmosphere. Your bowels and bladder would evacuate. You'd lose consciousness pretty quick, and die in 3. If you held your breath your lungs would rupture. But you don't frikin implode. He must be thinking of... the bottom of the sea or something? Mr. science astronaut guy would never say anything so lame-brained.

    Hollywood's rediculous portrayal of computers, even the kind everyday people use, is on full display. Sure, some of us appreciate the shoe-horned in nod to Zork 2 and Leather Goddesses of Phobos (especially, given it's Mars), but takes nothing away form everything else shown. When Watney goes around talking about "Hex-Y-Decimal" spoken like someone who's never picked a color for a web page before, I just cringed.

    It wasn't clear, but it also looks like he tried to point the communication dish at Earth? It is true Pathfinder had the ability to communicate directly to earth through both a low and high gain antenna, but the way it would work is the low-gain is omnidirecitonal, and once signal is received then they remotely determine how to orient the high-gain which is more focused. That is more of a quibble.

    Some basic of Mars are wrong, like gravity. Sure, hard to get right.... but still wrong.

    There were many scenes on the Hermes where EVA was treated very poorly. I was really amused when the one guy pop'd the hatch to watch the docking operation. Maybe he was going to help out instead of what was really happening.... putting himself and the mission in ridiculous danger. The whole EVA crawling around the space station was just shy of Gravity-level ridiculousness.

    Basics of space wrong: There is no sound in the vacuum of space. Sure some sounds could be heard in the suits from things happening to the suit (things dinking off the helmet or whatnot) but there was way more sound than that going on.

    The Hermes itself was not believable. It had these parts with gigantic glass picture windows. That's not a likely design feature. Needing a bomb to open a hatch... okay maybe, but mostly just seemed a way to try and figure out how to "science up a bomb" on screen than anything.

    I'm sorry to disappoint, but poking a hole in your glove does not make you Iron Man. How do I know? Because this has happened before. Know what really happens? Your skin seals the hol

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by wues ( 589425 )
      > But, I was seriously disappointing in the film. Which character were you?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PvtVoid ( 1252388 )

      Dude, you must be really fun at a party.

    • by skam240 ( 789197 )

      Plenty of fair points but in regards to this one

      Watney is hit by debris and whisked away. An astronaut asks how long he could survive if his suit was breached (or something like that). A) That question would not be asked, they would know...

      This is a very standard movie technique used to inform the viewer. Sure, an astronaut would most likely already know that but the point of is to convey the information to the viewer while keeping the story going rather then creating a scene specifically to convey this li

    • by dinfinity ( 2300094 ) on Monday October 05, 2015 @06:35PM (#50665473)

      I want to sincerely thank you for being that guy. Your honesty and critical view is what this world is sorely lacking.

      The amount of apologism for shit in ridiculous-budget movies that could easily have been done right is insane. Bullshit replies like 'you must be fun at parties' or "it's just a movie" really piss me off. They pretty much translate to "Shut up, nerd. Don't talk shit about stuff I like."
      Given that this is a site with 'news for nerds', we're talking about a 'sciency' movie, and that the entire fucking point of science is to be absolutely honest, objective, thorough and accurate make it extra sad that that is what your objectivity gets you.

      So again: thank you and don't let all the Hollywood-apologists ever deter you. Keep calling it like you see it! Maybe then someday, actually well and attentively written scripts will become the norm instead of the rare exception.

    • by Rob Bos ( 3399 )

      A lot of this is covered in more detail in the book. The slingshot maneuver is complicated because /Hermes/ is a constant-thrust vessel with powerful ion drives, not a point-thrust craft, so it's nontrivial to calculate an exact departure vector.

  • Any good despite the lead actor? :)

  • Another post noted that the gravity on Mars was not depicted properly in the movie.

    The author admitted that the windstorm was not plausible.

    One other big thing - the sun. The sun was too big in the film. There is a scene shortly after Watney is stranded, and he is watching the sun set over the ridges and mountains in the distance. The sun was its size as seen from Earth, not as it would be seen from Mars.

    Loved the movie anyhow, of course. Go see it if you haven't!
    • by Cyberax ( 705495 )
      They got the Sun right in _some_ shots, but not in all of them. Possibly because they used the actual landscapes and sunsets in some shots.
    • by cowdung ( 702933 )

      Rich Purnell (played by Donald Glover) was awesome. :)

      I liked that they didn't make it into a typical Ridley Scott movie. They kept NASA professional..

      Though I wonder how they would just take off so quickly and not even take some photos from orbit to investigate/confirm what happened.

  • Saw this image on the web last night:

    Damon as Private Ryan

    Damon in Interstellar

    Damon in The Martian

    How many more millions are we going to spend rescuing Matt Damon?
  • by n2hightech ( 1170183 ) on Monday October 05, 2015 @03:32PM (#50663957)
    Spoilers below: I agree liked the movie. Good science on the orbital mechanics and many of the issues. The ending was far fetched. The small amount of mass expelled by blowing the hatch would have little effect on the speed of the ship.The risk of unintended irreparable damage would be massive. Why not use attitude thrusters or just turn the ship around and use the main engine sounded like they had plenty of fuel. I would think they would have considered needing to make course adjustments before hand and stopped the habitat rotation so attitude control was easy. I was disappointed when he used plastic sheet and duct tape to replace the airlock that blew off the habitat. No way a thin sheet of plastic is going to hold 12psi needed to make the habitat habitable over that 8 ft diameter hole. Similar issue with the bubble taped to the rover for storing supplies. Might be possible with some kevlar fiber reinforced material but not the clear poly sheet he appears to use. Sealing the plastic to the habitat and rover adequately would be just about impossible. Still liked the movie and may read the book.
    • by Cyberax ( 705495 )
      They needed just around 30m/s delta-v. This is entirely plausible to achieve with escaping air. Moreover, the rotating section can help to stabilize the orientation (it's a giant gyroscope) and minimize the tumble.
  • I kinda preferred the book's ending but my main (and still tiny) quibble is that when they are walking on the ring they were definitely walking down a slope, instead of around a ring that was spinning to provide gravity. Along side this they were able to redirect themselves unnaturally in zero g. They could just make a course change without touching anything. So pretty much the special effects people on set simply had no idea about how things work in a zero G environment. These slipups weren't momentary bu

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