Six astronauts struggle in the midst of a red sandstorm, attempting to make their way to from base to the rocket. With their arms linked together in order to keep everyone close, they struggle to reach their only method of transportation available to fly them home.
Suddenly, a gust of wind sends a large disc hurtling towards one of the astronauts, sending him away from the team. As reluctant as they are to abandon a fellow team member whose death they cannot even confirm, the team eventually manages to gather the remaining members into the ship and safely return home.
The lost astronaut is Dr. Mark Watney, portrayed by Matt Damon, a botanist who accompanies a team of NASA astronauts in exploring and gathering data on Acidalia Planitia on Mars. The movie title, “The Martian,” thus refers to Watney himself, of his struggles and determination to maintain morale and hope that he will eventually be rescued from an isolated planet located far from planet Earth.
Though some consider “The Martian” as essentially an iteration of other recent space travel films like “Gravity” and “Interstellar,” which also features Matt Damon stranded on a foreign planet, I would argue the opposite. “The Martian” is a movie with a unique message that is realistic and thus applicable to real life in contrast to “Interstellar” and “Gravity,” which are not. “Interstellar” includes elements of the supernatural, in that the protagonist, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), travels through a wormhole created by fifth dimensional beings and is presented with the opportunity to bend time in order to communicate with his past self.
Though “Gravity” does not play with the concept of the supernatural, it is a movie that provides only one perspective. Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a biomedical engineer who, due to a fatal explosion caused by an ambush of debris, becomes the sole survivor of the team who had been sent to space to perform repairs on a space telescope. The movie then focuses on her attempts to both survive and make her way back to planet Earth.
Yet “Gravity” does not shed light on the situation back on planet Earth. With the communication cut, NASA has no light on the calamity brewing in space. In fact, it seems that NASA itself does not play a role in the movie.
In contrast, “The Martian” involves Watney, stuck on Mars; his crew, travelling through space; and the NASA and others on Earth. “The Martian” shows that space travel is a team effort. Every single person in the team and in NASA plays a crucial role in determining the fates of the astronauts. In addition, each person is emotionally connected to the project: upon realizing that Watney is indeed still living, the entire NASA team participating in the project immediately leaps to their feet to try and make contact with Watney. The movie portrays the emotions of every single individual ranging from nervousness, desperation and even exhilaration at the moment that contact was made.
“The Martian” portrays an ideal model of teamwork and life. Teamwork is a central theme of the film. If not for the the strong bond of teamwork and family connecting the astronauts together, Watney’s rescue would not have been possible. The joint effort and determination to rescue Watney despite seemingly impossible odds is integral to fulfilling the goal. In the end, “The Martian” is a visually stunning portrait of collaboration.