I'll be doing a joint review of the just-released motion picture The Martian with Donna Frelick at a later date, but having just seen the movie on Friday, I really wanted to share a few thoughts.
Why do I see that as a VGT? (Very Good Thing.)
I do something when I go to movies. It's something my agent and I discussed in our marketing talks a while back. When I see a Sci-Fi movie, I study the audience. I mentally take note of things like gender and age group. I want to know who this film appeals to, what are the components of its audience.
What did I notice about The Martian?
There was no predominant factor. It appealed to everyone.
The audience was an equal disbursement of male/female and all different age groups. There were retired couples, families, groups of two to five female friends, groups of two to five male friends, late teens, couples and single viewers. Some wore Sci-Fi lore t-shirts, some were conservatively dressed, some were punked, grunged, or geeked out, others wore business attire, having come straight from work on a Friday night.
But the biggest epiphany came from snippets of conversations in the hallway after the movie.
"And that guy who figured out the math of the flight pattern..."
"Yeah. That gravity assist thing was bomb."
"...how he worked each problem."
"...so damed smart..."
"...when I can't even keep a cactus alive."
"OMG. That launch scene...could that really work?"
"That was the best freakin' movie I've seen in ages."
The Martian is a stellar story of survival against impossible odds with inspiring visuals and great characters. In a word, just...Wow.
But wait, so was Apollo 13. So what set this film apart and put it in a class of its own? I think it was the convincing way that it showcased the can-do factor of science. How science can be a power of its own right that is way beyond cool.
The Martian aspires to do what few films have managed to do successfully. It employs science as an exciting plot factor. It doesn't drone on needlessly about equations and components and 'how to's, it simply shows what IS possible--what can be achieved--when science is applied.
How do you create sufficient quantities of water where none exist? Chemistry.
How do you grow food on a planet where nothing grows? Botany.
How do you communicate with Earth when you have no way to generate a signal? Electrical engineering.
How do you generate heat when outside temps can drop to -76 degrees F (-60 C)? Thermonuclear physics.
The Martian drives its points home with every jaw-dropping scene and gasp-worthy plot twist. Science is exciting. Science is discovery. Science is survival.
Or as Mark Watney so effectively proclaims, "I'm going to science the sh*t out of this."
Sometimes entertainment can have a profound impact on our culture and on what we care about. Just as the Star Trek franchise once motivated a generation to seek out new technologies, I hope this film might inspire millions more to appreciate STEM studies and space exploration.
And, of course, being a Sci-Fi Romance writer, I hope it might also inspire a whole new fan base to appreciate the treasure that is SFR. As our blog motto states, "Where the imagination goes...the heart follows."
Here are some of the basic facts about the Mars environment from the NASA Quest site.
Are you planning to go see The Martian?
Have a great week.