“For a moment of night we have a glimpse of ourselves and of our world islanded in its stream of stars…voyaging between horizons across the eternal seas of space and time.” –Henry Beston (1888-1968)
It seems that Fall has become the season for sci-fi action, space exploration thrillers. Last year (November 2014), we joined Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway as they plunged through a wormhole in search of a new home for mankind in Interstellar, and a year before that (October 2013), we embarked on a riveting, turbulent ride with Sandra Bullock in Gravity, which became the month’s highest-grossing live action film of all time.
This year, Ridley Scott’s The Martian, starring actor extraordinaire Matt Damon, is supposedly on course to surpass the latter, blasting off with $55 million on opening weekend.
Described as a “love letter to science”, the “ultimate survival story,” and “Cast Away for NASA Nerds,” with critics calling it among Scott’s best, it tells the story of Mark Watney (Matt Damon), an astro-botanist who becomes stranded on Mars after his crew mistakes him for dead during an emergency evacuation.
Striking the perfect balance between funny and suspenseful, Watney is forced to utilize human logic and his astronautic and botanical training to “science the shit out of” his daunting dilemma in order to survive, growing his own food, improvising ways to communicate with NASA and launching himself back into space to be “picked up” by a spaceship with the crew who left him behind.
An all around impressive film, with a truly stellar performance by Matt Damon, it showcases the limitless breadth of scientific ingenuity and human resiliency – and only makes Elon Musk’s vision of colonizing Mars seem more plausible – while delivering an inspirational message for the turbulence we can experience in our own lives on planet Earth – namely that, where there is a will, there is a way to accomplish anything, even the impossible.
In what has inevitably become one of the film’s most quotable moments, Watney says to a classroom full of young astronauts upon his return: “It’s space. It doesn’t cooperate. I guarantee you that at some point, everything’s going to go south on you. And you’re going to say, ‘This is it. This is how I end.’ Now you can either accept that…or you can get to work.”
He continues: “You do the math. You solve one problem. And then you solve another. And then another. Solve enough and you stay alive.”
Here’s to solving problems – in life, on Earth and beyond!
For another well-done film about Mars, check out “Mission to Mars” (2000), directed by Brian De Palma and starring Tim Robbins, Gary Sinise and Don Cheadle; an action-packed recovery mission, set in the year 2020, to bring back the crew of the “first manned mission to Mars” after encountering a catastrophic disaster.