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The Martian is a sci-fi novel by Andy Weir that has a super crazy story about how it came to be. Weir was working as a lowly computer programmer, writing as a side gig when he tried to get the book picked up. He repeatedly got the Jaimie Foxx hand to the face while looking for a publisher, so he said eff it and decided to release the book chapter by chapter each week on his site for free. Publishers soon began to call while he was up in his cubicle fixing bugs. This dude straight up snuck off to take phone calls about his book and movie deals. Oh yeah, Hollywood soon came a runnin’.

The story revolves around a Mars space shuttle crew named ARES 3. We don’t get an official year that the story takes place, but most people agree that it’s in the 2035-2045 time frame, not very far from our current day. The major difference between Weir’s world and ours is the esteem garnered by astronauts who have put their life on the line and family on hold in order to help the advancement of our species by traveling a couple million miles to the Red Planet. Bit of a contrast considering the scrutiny our space programs have faced since the recession.

The Martian‘s plot engulfs you once the Ares 3 crew begins to pick up signs of an approaching sandstorm. They all make a run for it from the Hab (basically their home and lab) to the MAV ship that gets them off Mars and back to the big and expensive ion-powered space ship Hermes.

They all make it back to the shuttle.

All, except crew member Mark Watney, who is presumed dead.

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Mark Watney is The Martian. Obviously, we as readers find out that Mark is indeed alive and completely determined to use his education, training, wits and determination to “science the shit” (direct quote) out of his perilous predicament until he either has nothing left or gets rescued. He makes every single moment of his Mars journey an amazing tag along story. With Mark capturing every moment of his struggle to survive by logging entries into the Hab and rover, you feel like you’re the narrator of this space epic. You feel every ounce of his pain when things go wrong and are rooting for the man to make it off Mars every single red step of the way. The one thing, in my eyes, that sets this piece of fiction apart from others in the space genre is the humanity of it all.

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You want Watney to survive. You want Watney to explore. You want all the great things in life to happen to Watney, but that’s not what Weir gives you. He gives you real science. He fucks Watney up in so many ways because that’s what would happen if you got fucking stranded on Mars by yourself! You’d get screwed so much you’d want to kill yourself. That’s where my favorite aspect of this tale comes in. Mark Watney is the comedian of the crew of scientists and engineers. Weir did his research. He didn’t use the sci-fi tag to ease his writing process, he actually made sure he grounded his theories in technological aspects that already exist. Although not every single one of his scientific explanations is 100%, as evidenced by multiple sites including Variety, NPR, Time, Washington Post and even a real retired astronaut review who have picked apart the legitimacy behind the novels science and the book has come out on top. Back to Watney being the funny guy. Ya see, NASA doesn’t take the selection process for sending people to Mars (or anywhere) lightly. They possess a rigid process that includes putting all of the correct pieces in all the right places. That involves selecting a commander that, well, can command her ass off. That involves making sure they place someone who can lift the spirits of a crew that may get dogged down or depressed during a 4 year mission. Yup! You read that right, it takes four dam years to plan and execute a proper Mars mission with the actual trip only needing 124 days. Planning these missions involves selecting astronauts that have 2 special skills and a bunch of different strengths, which allows each crew member to remain occupied on the interplanetary commute and alleviates the need for more than 6 crew members.

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Mark opens up the novel with a line that will either get you next level hype for each and every page to come, or will leave you completely content to put the book down and move to the next one on your book list. So, considering the New York Times bestseller label the novel has gained, its pretty safe to say that most people absolutely loved the fact that after being stranded on a foreign planet, Mark Watney has the resolve and courage to drop such an absurd and self deprecating line. It also bottles up how amazingly human and hilarious Mark remains throughout his road to death or triumph.

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Watney is the crew’s botanist and mechanical engineer. That, along with the whole crew having to be well trained in medical procedures come in handy at one point or another in this story. He gets stuck on the Red Planet with enough food and water for about a year. Potatoes potatoes potatoes. That is all. After thinking about it, he figures he has more than 5 years he’ll need to survive and stretch his food and H20 to before the first chance of a rescue mission would be possible..and that’s if NASA Earth even decides the best move is to risk more lives and divert the scheduled ARES 4 mission. Lots of variables at work and I’m itching to get into each and every one, but, as promised, I’m going to stop the review of the novel here. If I continue any more I’ll spoil the greatness of this phenomenal man vs. nature tale and I highly recommend you going out and reading this one.

The Martian: Movie Review

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The Hype: Already sporting a top notch fresh rating of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, Ridley Scott’s theatrical take on The Martian was receiving oodles of buzz and positive reviews across the board. Scott is notoriously selective with his movie directing (Blade Runner, Alien, Gladiator) and this one is no different. He was the first choice to direct the film thanks to his outstanding track record of bringing outer space scripts to life, capturing the beauty and destruction of such harsh galactic settings, and (usually) murdering it at the Box Office. Behind the scenes, the movie has been hailed as one of the breeziest big movie productions in a long while. They finished under budget spending a hair over 100 mil (*studio exec gasp) and had no real difficulties filming the Mars like terrain in the Wadi Run Desert, Jordan. Fam, everything went so smooth and everyone involved in the making of the movie felt so good about it that they moved the release date up from Thanksgiving to October 2nd. Coincidence you say? Maybe. I mean, the supermoon lunar eclipse just captured the nation’s attention and had the eyes of the world fixated on the sky anddd NASA did discover water on Mars and announced their findings the same week the movie premiered. That’s none of my business doe. I’ll just continue to sit here typing away at my computer sippin on thy tea.

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Matt Damon starring as the amazingly calm and comical under pressure, Mark Watney. This was the make or break move for the movie. You either get Watney right or you fail. They got it so right.

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Jessica Chastain playing the guilt ridden and grief stricken ARES 3 commander, Melissa Lewis. In order to to portray what a mission commander has to go through after making the call to leave the first human alone on another planet calls for someone with talent and experience only Chastain could deliver.

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Jeff Daniels playing the role of Teddy Sanders, the Director of NASA aka the man in charge of this entire situation. Jeff Dat Dude Daniels don’t need a dam soul to tell him what movies to be in and pass on because he just winds up in the most fire productions no matter what year it is.

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Sean Bean in the house folks! I know, I’m still salty I don’t have more Ned Stark in my life too. Bean portrays Mitch Henderson, Flight Director. He’ll be working hand in hand with Daniels and the crew at NASA trying to figure out how to save Watney.

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Kristen Wiig as Annie was the one surprise casting that I’m happily intrigued by. Although most box her into the comedic category of actresses, she has shown some serious acting ability in the past. Her role as the NASA director of media relations is spot on casting. Wiig just embodies a PR woman, but does she body this role?

Chiwetel Ejiofor the motha loving GAWD was being looked at to shatter expectations with this one. Most of y’all should be straight up gassed to witness the dialogue between him and Daniels as they tag team the effort to bring Mark home. Expect to see the screen light up with incredible compassion and emotion as the NASA team discovers more and more information about Mark and his Mars mission.

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Honorable Mention

Michael Peña shows us how amazing of an actor he has become when he assumes the role of crew member Rick Martinez, Marks devout best bro for life.

Kate Mara attempts to make us forget her average portrayal of Sue Storm in F4 this year, by assuming the much more rounded role of Beth Johanssen, the only other female crew member besides Commander Lewis.

Childish Gambino Donald Glover makes a appearance. His biggest role to date besides that eyebrow raising performance in Magic Mike 2.

Last is the Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes himself. Sebastian Stan plays Chris Beck. We’ll see if he can expand on Beck’s minor highlights in the book.

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The Highlights: Well would you look at that, it’s Mars. The brutal, vibrant, rocky red environment that the 4th rock from the sun exudes. Ridley Scott on his Picasso Baby flow with this one. Vivid reds, expanding plains and some badass space scenes. We don’t get as much space action as I had expected going into the movie, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Lately we’ve been getting a surge of outer space movies, and we don’t want to over do it. Interstellar and Gravity were dope, but nobody needs another John Carter.

Mark Watney is funny as all hell in the face of destruction. His hatred of Commander Lewis’ disco collection is comedy and pain all rolled up in one big ol baked potato. Marks snarky comments and childish antics put a smile on your face while searching for that glimmer of hope in a pitch black tunnel.

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The supporting cast is bonkers, man. Jeff Daniels out here on his Phil Jackson at NASA, calling them shots. Chiwetel Ejiofor was all up in the building reppin’ for the homies! Felt like he was on screen showing that acting range for days. Chastain was amazing, obviously. She’s impervious to suspect acting. The A-List cast puts in that work, and I’m not talking garbage time fantasy points.

There are plenty of reasons to go see The Martian. Just know the visuals, cast and selective comedy will be worth more than the price of admission.

Room For Improvement: I wish they gave us more Mark Watson angst and agony. The movie needs to appeal to the masses and be simple enough for stock brokers and waitresses to both understand. Unfortunately, that forces Scott to pass on covering a lot of the trauma Watney goes through and Macgyver type innovation he whips up throughout his years on Mars. He goes dam near insane when first thinking of what to do sitting there alone on an unapologetic planet. He has a much more difficult time trickin out the rover. His dam rover flips over on his crazy trip to the new MAV, all after having to drive through a gigantic sandstorm!

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Then we have the highly debated validity of the movie’s science. As already stated, most of the movies science is backed up by real world theories and applications. The one that you’re going to hear people barking about is the sandstorm that sends the Ares 3 crew back to Earth after minimal time on Mars. Problem is, storms on Mars don’t get that bad so Andy Weir kindaaaaaaa based the whole story on a fabrication..and highly unlikely possibility. But it’s still dope though, so I aint even trippin. If people hadn’t gone all Inspector Gadget fact checking, nobody would’ve thought twice about it. There’s a big difference when you’re plot holes are glaring weakness compared to searching for problems with a magnifying glass.

Space Shout Outs:

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Water on Mars, people?! Do you know how long that possibility has been vexing scientists? The question of water on Mars has been keeping astronauts up at night for half a century and they just casually drop this bomb and expect life to go on as usual? Welp, that’s exactly what happened and there is something seriously wrong with that. We just confirmed that we may have been products of another planet. We just confirmed that there may be real live organisms chillin on the Red Planet. We just confirmed that our species may have a new home light years in the future. Why the hell aren’t more people talking about this? Why aren’t there more posts on social media about all the possibilities that were just unearthed unmarsed? Because we’re a sensationalized society that doesn’t have their priorities in order. Yeah, I just pressed the human race. Sue me.

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On a lighter note, how amazing was that Supermoon Lunar Eclipse? Just stunning.

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  • Ja-Quan is a NYC teacher and artist holding a B.A. in Sociology and History from SUNY New Paltz. On his journey to become Hokage, the Lord of The Speed Force and Protector of the Recaps can be found North of The Wall, chopping it up on Twitter @OGquankinobi

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