Duct-Tape Hero: Why “The Martian” is a must-see (and must read)

Today’s moment of epic squee: 2oth Century Fox released the first trailer for The Martian.

I read the novel earlier this year, and absolutely loved it. The trailer looks like it’s going to be pretty faithful to the book, which is fantastic.

I’ve noticed a lot of people are latching on to the line “I’m going to have to science the shit out of this,” and that pretty much sums up both the tone and the plot of the book. It’s Extreme Survivor: Space Edition with a funny, charismatic lead.

Along with Tomorrowland, I think this movie is an indication that sci-fi fans — and maybe the public at large — are finally worn out on dystopia. Aside from its “Space Loner Robinson” adventure plot, the trailer does a good job of conveying the upbeat thematic direction of The Martian. Which is, in short, “People don’t always suck. We have a strong sense of self preservation, but we also have an innate desire to help each other.”

Except where Tomorrowland pushes its “the future doesn’t have to suck” thesis with vague hand-waving and promises about jetpacks and wind farms, The Martian “sciences the shit out of this thing.” It uses individual problem-solving and a global rescue effort to show the audience how humans got to the top of the food chain, and why we maybe deserve to stay there a little longer.

Yeah, there are corporate weasels who punk out and take the safer option. But compared to recent SF/F fare like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and even Game of Thrones, even the most unlikable characters in The Martian are at worst, decent people who make the more conservative of two statistically-improbable choices. And the best characters achieve true heroism.

Aside from all that, it’s going to be a fantastic, edge-of-your-seat popcorn flick. Forget the explosions and set-pieces (and there are some doozies). Never before has a book gotten me completely engrossed in whether potatoes would grow. I rooted for those little tubers like they were Pippin and Merry from Lord of the Rings, man.

Heck, Sean Bean might even survive this movie, it’s so damn optimistic.

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