The Martian…and ten other Martians

The Martian…and ten other Martians

We saw The Martian on Saturday…and both my Significant Other and I thought it was the best movie we’ve seen this year. That doesn’t always happen. 🙂

I’m a geek through and through.

My SO is only a geek by association. 😉

I like to say that one of the hallmarks of a geek is a low threshold of entertainment. I always enjoy seeing a movie (even if it’s “bad”), and I’ve never regretted reading a book. My SO? Not so much, which I think is more normal.

In the case of Ridley Scott’s The Martian (screenplay by Drew Goddard, based on the book by Andy Weir), that wasn’t an issue.

If you want space stuff and special effects, you’ve got it.

If you want human drama and humor, you have that, too.

This is a good example of where you can see what a director does for a movie. I get that question sometimes…how can you tell when a movie is well directed?


If none of the actors’ performances stand out, that’s good directing.

You might think it’s great if one person is the star, and undoubtedly, Matt Damon is the star of this movie.

However, you don’t want it to be great because the other performances aren’t.

In The Martian, the performances are all good…from Matt Damon to Benedict Wong to Kate Mara to Donald Glover, they are solid.

The technical elements will likely get some Oscar nominations…in particular, the cinematography by Pirates of the Caribbean’s Dariusz Wolski.

As to the script by Drew Goddard…I read the book

The Martian (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Naturally, many readers are trepidatious about seeing a movie based on a book they enjoyed.

This is a case where they both understand their media.

There are long sections in the book of math and detail…it works there, but it wouldn’t work well in a movie.

The movie, on the other hand, has moments of visual scope and action which wouldn’t work as well in a book.

I think some people will reasonably argue that the movie is better than the book for most people…more people will like the movie than the book.

Well, more people almost always like a movie better than like the book. 😉 The worst performing (but still liked) top ten movie in the USA will have many more attendees than copies of the book will be sold, typically.

The Martian passed two tests for me: I would have seen it again right away, and it spontaneously came into my consciousness again over the next couple of days (the “flashback test”).

It’s not a perfect movie, of course. One thing missing for me was any kind of conversational software on Mars. I speak to my

 Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your by shopping*)

and will soon be doing that with the Alexa Voice Service on my Fire TV devices (settings just appeared in my Alexa app for my current generation Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, as well as for my soon to arrive Amazon Fire TV ((at AmazonSmile*)) gen 2).

Lots of people speak to their phones…and their phones speak back. Having gotten used to the Echo, I was happy to be able to say, “Hey, Siri” on my work iPhone (I use a Fire Phone for personal use) when it is plugged in (and after upgrading to the latest OS ((Operating System)) version) enabling the option) to do hands free things, like setting alarms.

Of course Mark Watney would know it wasn’t a “real person”, but it’s a bit hard for me to imagine that a space mission far enough in the future to get humans to Mars wouldn’t have some voice recognition and response.

That’s nitpicking, though. 🙂

I like to have movies I can recommend to just about anyone, and The Martian is one of those. My two warnings are that there is quite a bit of language in it some would find objectionable, and there is brief non-sexual nudity.

Other Martians

In 1877, astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli reported “canali” on Mars. In Italian, that meant “channels”, but it was essentially mistranslated in English as “canals”…implying that they were artificial structures.

While Mars had been in fiction before that, Schiaparelli’s statement, as well as Asaph Hall’s discovery of the moons of Mars that same year, led to science fictional (and fantasy) visits to and from Mars.

In Across the Zodiac by Percy Greg, just three years later, an Earthling actually flies to Mars in a spacecraft and meets Martians.

From there, we are off to the races. 🙂

Especially notable  is 1898’s The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, which is clearly science fiction.

1905’s Gullivar of Mars by Edwin Arnold may have inspired other popular science fiction…but, well, the main character gets to Mars on a flying carpet (not a flying saucer…literally, a carpet), so…

1912’s A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs is often cited as science fiction, and certainly anticipated other science fictions works (and technology,  including GPS…see Based on Barsoom?)…but there are very clearly fantasy elements, including how John Carter gets to Mars.

The fiction changed considerably after the 1964 Mariner missions which did a flyby of Mars, and again with the Viking landings in 1976.

Thousands of pages can be (and have been) written about Mars in fiction. I thought I’d just list a few notable Martians…

  1. “Uncle Martin” on My Favorite Martian, played by Ray Walston, in a popular 1960s “mermaid out of water” (as I like to call them) sitcom. Smart-alecky, able to pass as a human (since Martin’s head antennae were retractable), and capable of becoming invisible at will (although it was an effort)
  2. Allan Sherman’s “Martian gal”…in a parody called Eight Foot Two, All Over Blue, a Martian describes an alien love interest with transistors and stereo ears
  3. Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz) is a DC comics superhero first introduced in 1955
  4. Marvin the Martian is a Looney Tunes evil alien, dating from 1948.  With a quiet voice and a dog sidekick, Marvin (the name came later) was still a serious threat to Earth’s existence
  5. Michael Dunn (Miguelito Loveless on The Wild Wild West) played a Martian on Norman Corwin Presents, a now largely lost TV series from a major player in radio
  6. Tars Tarkas from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom series is one of a few leading character Martians in science fiction novels. Truly an alien, the Thark is green-skinned, with more than four limbs and tusks…and is more empathetic than most of the species
  7. Dejah Thoris, also from Barsoom, is very different…attractive to an Earth human and appearing humanoid, the princess is, however, born from an external egg (as Mork from Ork would be in the 1970s). How exactly she is able to have hybrid children with Earthling John Carter isn’t clear
  8. Flat cats are a non-speaking form of Martian life in Robert A. Heinlein’s The Rolling Stones. They are kept as pets and are sort of featureless. Heinlein reportedly waived any complaints when David Gerrold created the similar tribbles for the original Star Trek
  9. The Butt-Ugly Martians were featured in an animated TV series on Nickelodeon in the early 2000s. While short-lived, it was adapted into videogames
  10. Christopher “Kit” Draper is an astronaut marooned on Mars alone (except for a monkey) in Robinson Crusoe on Mars, a 1964 low budget movie with a screenplay by Ib Melchior and John Higgins. The first part of the movie is surprisingly similar to Weir’s The Martian, and a fan familiar with the first movie who saw the new adaptation with no other knowledge could be forgiven for thinking that the 2015 movie is a considerably reimagined reboot of the 1964 movie. Of course, that only holds for the 1964 version until the aliens show up… 😉 There is also liquid water on Mars, which only the recent discoveries allow to be in the 2015 vers—oh, wait. There’s liquid water in the 1964 movie and not in the 2015 one? Interesting… 😉 See Robinson Crusoe on Mars here:RCoM on YouTube

Who are your favorite Martians? Feel free to share with me and my readers by commenting on this post.

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

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