back to article The Martian: Matt Damon sciences the sh*t out of the red planet

Earlier this week, 20th Century Fox released a trailer for the Matt Damon and Ridley Scott vehicle The Martian, a due-in-November film based on a novel of the same name by Andy Weir. The book's really sweet, although aspiring novelists will wonder why they didn't think of the “astronaut left behind on Mars figures out how to …

  1. Ashton Black

    I'd watch it.

    Might even pick up the book before then. I need some light sci-fi. :-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'd watch it.

      It's been done before, it was called Robinson Crusoe.

      1. Ashton Black

        Re: I'd watch it.

        Indeed and Avatar was Dances with Smurfs. You say it like it was a bad

        thing. You know Defoe allegedly plagiarized the shipwreck story from the draft of the memoirs of Henry Pitman.

        1. Irongut

          Re: Dances with Smurfs

          Yes, it was a bad thing.

          1. Ashton Black

            Re: Dances with Smurfs

            Fair enough. :-)

        2. x 7

          Re: I'd watch it.

          More likely Defoe based his tale on the life of Alexander Selkirk, probably with added zest from William Dampier and others. Dampier was responsible for both abandoning and relocating Selkirk years later

        3. Martin Budden Bronze badge

          Re: I'd watch it.

          Avatar was Dances with Smurfs

          Avatar was a remake of FernGully.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I'd watch it.


          No I mean written in 1719 by Daniel Defoe.

      3. TitterYeNot

        Re: I'd watch it.

        "It's been done before, it was called Robinson Crusoe."

        Dammit, you've ruined it now, you've revealed that he rescues a green Martian called Friday before making it home in one piece. Bah.

        Being pedantic, I guess that should really be FriSol it being Mars and all...

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: I'd watch it.

          "It's been done before, it was called Robinson Crusoe."

          You know, there was a 60s scifi maybe-not-quite-B-movie called "Robinson Crusoe on Mars", complete with Martian man Friday.

          Mine's the spacesuit with all the red dust on it!

      4. Benchops

        It /should/ have been done before

        MacGyver on Mars...

        actually I remember the Robinson Crusoe on Mars from seeing it at a very young age and I'd watch any space film. I remember it being quite good. But it wasn't anywhere near as good as MacGyver.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'd watch it.

        More like Robinson Crusoe on Mars...... with extra potatoes.

      6. ssharwood

        Re: I'd watch it.

        Re:Crusoe. This is what happens when I write book reviews in airport lounges after 12 hours sleep in three days in the midst of 89-hour Sydney-Miami-Sydney blags.

        Shoulda picked that up ...

      7. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: Done before

        "Welcome to Mars" by James Blish also covered this ground (though, if I remember correctly (it has been a while), he also fell back on indigenous Martian life to plug some plot-holes).

    2. MrXavia

      Re: I'd watch it.

      It is a great read, I am very hopeful that they convert it well without too much 'action'.

      Yes there is action, and rightly so, but other parts are the story...

      But by looking at the trailer, very well done!

      BUT they have too many teasers in the trailer, too many events I can instantly pick out by watching it...

      WHY oh WHY do they put so many teasers in the trailers!!!!

      1. Pedigree-Pete

        Re: I'd watch it.

        Don't watch the trailers, of anything.

    3. big_D Silver badge

      Re: I'd watch it.

      I listened to the audio book. Absolutely brilliant!

      Oh f*ck, I'm going to die!

      If you like the Dukes of Hazard, then you'll love the book. A love for DISCO will also help.

      1. Jeff from California

        Not love, but *tolerance*.

        As Watney makes abundantly clear, and with excruciatingly excellent justification, he views disco as being better than having nothing resembling music at all. Given the circumstances, a position which I can understand without necessarily agreeing. :)

    4. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: I'd watch it.

      After Randall Munroe's recommendation (see XKCD) I did - the PDF is available with a "may be distributed freely" copyright notice at the rear.

      Slightly disappointed with the rapidity of the ending, but otherwise a decent book...

    5. Pedigree-Pete

      Re: I'd watch it.

      I have. Pretty well rated on Amazon. The Kindle app even allows me to start reading it now.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    1. AbelSoul

      Re: xkcd

      Now *that* makes me want to watch it.


      1. Danny 4

        Re: xkcd

        Me too.

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: xkcd

          If only it didn't have Matt "One-expression" Damon as the lead, and Ridley "Prometheus" Scott* helming ...

          * I know, he has done some great stuff, but "Prometheus" (and, let's be honest, "GI Jane", Gladiator", "Robin Hood" and "Exodus") suggests his time is well in the past.

  3. cray74

    Movie adaptations

    The book circulated very well at my office, an aerospace company, and about a dozen folks ended up reading my copy. We had trouble nitpicking the science - Weir did his homework, with a little glitch about RTGs' dangers and something about breathing mixtures caught by a scuba diver. The book was mostly carried by the protagonist's humor and narrative style. Poor bastard: stuck on Mars and, worse, with only '70s music and sitcoms for entertainment.

    It's going to be challenging to adapt this properly to movie format. An astronaut's diary is fine as a novel, but could go horribly wrong as a movie. The vital narration is too easy to leave out of a movie, as happened with the Hunger Games movie. Or the narration could overwhelm the movie and turn into a found-footage, Blair Witch pile of garbage.

    The trailer was promising, though.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Movie adaptations

      As I recall, there was something of a science handwave in the final chapter, regarding matching orbits... looking forward to the film, though.

    2. Tac Eht Xilef

      Re: Movie adaptations

      >"We had trouble nitpicking the science - Weir did his homework, with a little glitch about RTGs' dangers and something about breathing mixtures caught by a scuba diver."

      Having discussed the book with a few different people from a few different science/engineering domains - who, I will say, all enjoyed it despite its several faults - the biggest complaint seemed to be 'I was happy to let the science be slightly iffy - right up until he got some fundamental of my domain wrong, and it all fell apart!".

      For me it was the Arduino-level understanding of electricity / electronics displayed, which lead to some consideration of the thermodynamics issues it raised, which then started the whole thing unravelling...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Movie adaptations

        Can you two seriously not see that this is what's destroyed the genre? The problems you have aren't with any 'science' - the author is not doing science, he's writing a book. That is not how science is done. If he were doing science, he would be publishing in a journal. Requiring fiction authors to be right down to the finest minutia and trivia is batshit crazy and utterly hostile to new writers - would you have the same sort of conniption if he used a model of car that didn't exist? No. Please stop neutering the genre.

    3. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Movie adaptations

      That is the problem cray74, the book is brilliant, and it doesn't need a protagonist, there are enough problems facing our hero to keep it interesting. But translate it to a film, especially a Hollywood film and I have my doubts about it being anywhere near as good and I fear they will try and make some bureaucrat who will try and nix things, just to give the film a villain. It doesn't need a f****ing villain!

      A film doesn't need good guys and bad guys to be a winner. It needs a good story, and this is a stormer.

    4. BongoJoe

      Re: Movie adaptations

      Nothing wrong with 70s music as long as it wasn't disco.

      1. Esme

        Re: Movie adaptations

        It was. (DIsco, that is).

  4. Richard 81

    I'm hoping for Castaway on Mars.

    ...with a now defunct Martian rover playing the part of Wilson.

    1. Captain Hogwash

      Re: I'm hoping for Castaway on Mars.

      ...with Zooey Deschanel playing the Amanda Donahoe part.

      1. The Jon

        Re: I'm hoping for Castaway on Mars.

        hmm.. compare Cast Away (2000, Tom Hanks) with Castaway (1986, Oliver Reed). I know which one I preferred.

        1. x 7

          Re: I'm hoping for Castaway on Mars.

          I agree with the preference of films, but Oliver Read isn't the actor I remember from "Castaway". Now Amanda Donahoe,,,,,her I do remember

  5. StephenD

    Release date

    Originally scheduled for November (Thanksgiving in the US) but a variety of reports suggest it will now be 2 October instead (e.g.

  6. thx1138v2

    "The Red Planet isn't a good bad guy, because the challenges it throws at Watney are forces of nature and, as such, immutable, impersonal and undirected."

    I think it was Ted Nugent that said, "Once you spend a little time with her and really get to know mother nature, you come to realize what a stone cold bitch she is. She'll kill you in a heart beat, given the chance." Or something to that effect.

    Most people on the planet spend the majority of their time in cities or at 30K feet and are blissfully ignorant of nature.

    And that's here on earth. Once you get out beyond the magnetosphere she gets orders of magnitude rougher.

    Which brings up the point that Mars' magnetic field is nearly non-existent and that is the major reason we'll never live on Mars for more than a few forays. Unless, of course, the infinite improbability drive pops into our universe.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Once you get out beyond the magnetosphere she gets orders of magnitude rougher.

      Nature's a bitch at even twenty metres up: if you don't die on landing you'll at least break your ankles, and there's not enough time for your parachute to open.

      1. Pedigree-Pete

        20mtr up.

        It can get pretty dangerous 20mtrs down too.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: 20mtr up.

          And 20mtr horizontally in a huge number of cases.

          1. David Given

            Re: 20mtr up.

            Metres: surprisingly deadly.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: 20mtr up.

            And 20mtr horizontally in a huge number of cases.

            Less, if your balcony is small.

    2. Tenacal

      "Unless, of course, the infinite improbability drive pops into our universe."

      Pfft, don't be silly. I mean, what are the chances of something like that happening?

      1. Kane Silver badge


        2276709 to one...

        ...and falling.

    3. Naughtyhorse

      Ted nugget being killed in a heartbeat...

      Now there's something I'd pay to see :)

  7. paulc

    poor bastard...

    stuck on Mars with only potatoes to eat...

  8. Geoff Campbell


    I think the thing that made the book for me was that he was, in fact, a complete realist. The book opens with him accepting that he is royally, utterly, and terminally fucked, and is probably going to die sooner rather than later. And then just getting on with it and seeing what he can do to delay that point.

    I have to say that I am dubious about the film. Hollywood(tm) has a long and dishonourable history of taking this sort of "Joe Average doing their best to survive" book and completely missing the point, making the central character out to be some sort of superhuman hero.

    However, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, and go and see it anyway, because it could be bloody excellent :-)


    1. Mayhem

      Re: Optimism?

      The book reminded me a heck of a lot of Douglas Mawson's Home of the Blizzard, which features his survival in Antarctica after a disaster some 500km from their base,

      He has a similar improvisational style, manufacturing what is needed to survive, and simply perservering through force of will, despite numerous setbacks.

      Many reviews like this one complain that the subject never falls into despair, yet when you read a lot of first hand accounts of survival, very few actually do experience much despair. When they do, they certainly don't write about it - it just isn't something they waste energy on. Mawson has a quote I've never forgotten - upon pausing for a break in the sun one day because his feet hurt, he peels off his boots and socks and the soles of his feet come away with them. He writes Was there ever to be a day without some special disappointment? . He then dried them, bandaged them up, put his socks and boots back on and kept on walking - because there was no other option.

      Weir's book is well researched and compelling entertainment. I'm very much looking forward to the movie.

      1. Geoff Campbell

        Re: Optimism?

        I've not seen that one, sounds good. I'll hunt down a copy.


      2. kyndair

        Re: Optimism?

        I think the main reason we don't see many accounts of despair in survival situations is probably because they're the people who don't make it out. After all despair and depression sap away the will to do something about the situation you're in.

      3. x 7

        Re: Optimism?

        I wouldn't get too keen on Mawson as a hero........if a TV documentary last year with a somewhat revisionist view of polar history is to be believed, Mawson deliberately engineered the death of his remaining colleagues so that (1) he (Mawson) wouldn't run out of food (2) he could turn to cannibalism if required. The evidence was incomplete as to whether he did turn cannibal, but the narrator indicated that he believed Mawson did.

      4. Blitterbug

        Re: Weir's book is well researched and compelling entertainment

        It may be so, but I couldn't get past the awful, stilted prose. Robert Silverberg this just ain't. Had real high hopes when I bought this but I couldn't get past the tenth page. I so badly wanted to forget my snobbery and just enjoy it but dammit literate science fiction is my particular thang, and this just didn't cut it for me.

        Icon because I am aware I'm coming over like an enraged (deranged?) Eng Lit prof.

        1. Geoff Campbell

          Re: Weir's book is well researched and compelling entertainment

          Whereas I found the writing spot on in invoking the personal journal of a jobbing engineer. He wouldn't be writing perfect degree-level prose, would he?


          1. Blitterbug

            Re: on in invoking the personal journal of a jobbing engineer

            I understand where you're coming from, but most good first-person SF 'magically' has a highly literate prose style that evokes a sense of awesome. See RAH, Chris Priest, Ursula Le Guin etc. Sadly, clumsy prose doesn't come across as more realistic; it just feels clumsy.

  9. DrXym Silver badge

    I doubt he'll science the shit out of anything

    Ridley Scott is directing this so expect basic violations of the laws of physics, nonsensical science (and script) and deus ex machina's galore.

    1. desht

      Re: I doubt he'll science the shit out of anything

      Hopefully Scott's aware that lots of people who have read the book will be watching really carefully to ensure he doesn't HollywoodScience (tm) the shit out of the movie...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I doubt he'll science the shit out of anything

        There will have to be explosions and some sort of gun battle / car chase. Its Hollywood after all. How they'll work that in to a movie about a guy alone on Mars will be interesting to see. My money is on aliens or the "other country's guy who secretly got to Mars first".

  10. Sparks

    Not to be overly rude but...

    "Science therefore emerges as the book's hero to perhaps a greater degree than Watney himself."

    That is the entire sciencing-the-shit-out-of-it point of the entire novel and the entire film.

    Next you'll complain that the giant monsters and giant robots made it hard to focus on the human drama in Pacific Rim, or that all the sex got in the way of the plot in a porn movie...

  11. BigFire

    Trailers always spoil

    The trailer really spoil some of the plot point later on in the novel. I advice my co-worker not to watch it, least they got spoiled themselves and just either read the novel or wait for the movie.

  12. stringyfloppy

    "aspiring novelists will wonder why they didn't think of the “astronaut left behind on Mars figures out how to survive” premise first."

    Probably because Paramount Pictures released "Robinson Crusoe on Mars" in 1964, in which an astronaut stranded on Mars has to figure out how to survive.

  13. Stevie Silver badge


    Looked at the Amazon reviews yesterday. More than one person complaining of nil character growth, boring text and actually-a-bit-poor science.

    So: a perfect Hollywood/Damon vehicle.

    1. Naughtyhorse

      Re: Bah!

      Was the someone an astronaut?, Cos by all accounts they all loved it.

  14. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Andy Weir's done pretty well, going from the "Casey'n'Andy" webcomic to a book that's actually being made into a real movie.

    I was disappointed there was no auto-oxygen-o-mat and a distinct lack of JURRRZZZZZ!! noises.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just re-reading my Kindle copy, I think it was free but it might have been 90p - I suspect this was before it was picked up by a publisher.

    1. Pedigree-Pete


      No I feel well tucked-up. Mine was £3.31. Sigh!

  16. MJI Silver badge

    If you have mot read it, read it.

    Very good book, I liked it.

    I iwll see the film as I am a fan of Ridley Scotts work.


  17. ecofeco Silver badge

    Looks like fun

    Why not?

  18. ukgnome

    I was first introduced to Andy Weir through the Galactic Netcasts podcast called scifi geeks club when they had him on as a guest. It is totally worth a listen, the dudes awesome!

    1. Naughtyhorse

      not only but also

      there's a 1 hour interview Andy Weir did last week with Adam Savage on

      very good.

      very good indeed

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Would you be at liberty to say whether consideration was given or promised to you personally or to your employer, in exchange for writing this review?

    I don't know whether the book / film / video game / theatre play is any good, but I do not find so-called viral marketing campaigns all that appealing.

  20. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    Christ on a bendy bus

    Imagine Modern Family's Phil Dunphy – a bottomless reservoir of Dad jokes and cheesiness – as an astronaut and you'll get the picture.

    That... sounds fucking awful?

  21. maccy

    I'm going to have a hard time keeping Dr Mann out of my head.

    Cooper: Dr. Mann there's a 50/50 chance your gonna kill yourself.

    Dr. Mann: Those are the best odds I've had in years.

  22. Alfred

    The book was a novelty for the first half, but after that it just became dull. Problem, explanation, solution. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. To be fair, given the plot, there wasn't much the author could do about it.

    I suspect this is a case in which the movie should be able to improve on the novel. Whereas the novel was for the most part first-person from the stranded astronaut's viewpoint, the movie could make things more interesting with some unreliable narrator devices (or indeed, going insane), and giving us more than just his opinion or perspective.

  23. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    The last time ...

    ... Matt Damon was left behind on an exploration mission, things did not go so well.

  24. Matthew Taylor

    I'll probably pass

    The premise sounds excellent - though the film is rather too stuffed with Hollywood hunks / babes for my taste. I particularly doubt I could bear to hear Matt Damon growl "I'm gonna science the shit out of this". Everyone's a science cheerleader these days, yet no-one cares when an actual Nobel prize winning scientist is hounded from his position for saying something ill-advised.

  25. Julian 17

    Matt Damon - really?

    I have also read the book and it's good stuff, Mark is a smart guy using good science to survive where most others (even other really smart people) would probably fail.

    So I don't understand why the hell they should pick Matt Damon for this role? Because he immediately comes to mind when you think of a highly intelligent scientist/engineer, right?

  26. kbutler.toledo

    Remember this? No? Look it up!

    Earlier titles treated the subject as "Robinson Crusoe on Mars", different and highly illogical based on what we know today but believable when the book was written (early 50's [?])

  27. Unicornpiss Silver badge

    Liked the book...

    Looking forward to the movie.

    It will be a pleasure to watch a "sci-fi" that's actually based on science and not "non-stop action!" and overwrought contrived emotion.

    Guess we'll see what was done with it. I'm sure it won't be for everyone.

  28. lorisarvendu

    Well Rex Gordon did it first

    Possibly this is the earliest "Astronaut surviving alone on Mars" novel.

    Rex Gordon's "No Man Friday" from 1956. Has a good Quatermass feel to it, with Gordon's Mars teeming with life to provide obstacles as well as salvation to plucky Brit Holder. I originally picked this up after hearing it was the inspiration for "Robinson Crusoe on Mars", but apart from the location there's no commonality between the two.

  29. DurasnoPeach

    How About Mission to Mars (2000)? Don Cheadle played stranded Astronaut Luke Graham.

    1. Matt Piechota

      How About Mission to Mars (2000)? Don Cheadle played stranded Astronaut Luke Graham.

      I thought of that movie after reading the Martian over the last few days. The stories are actually pretty similar in style, as in (other than that last bit of MtM) it's almost entirely about the dangers of space and not space-monsters (or robo-space-monsters, see the contemporary "Red Planet" with Val Kilmer). I read the review of MtM and it apparently got panned in the press, but I thought it was a decent movie; but I'm a sucker for nature is the antagonist stuff. In a somewhat similar feel, check out Robert Redford in "All is Lost". I think there's only one line of dialog in the entire movie, but it's pretty compelling.

  30. GrumpyOldMan

    Read the book...

    I read the book ages ago. Bought it at an airport for a 5 1/2 hour flight. The book is funny, irreverent, lots of science and I really hope they've done it justice. Hope they keep the humour in it and the one-liners!

  31. Paul_Murphy

    I enjoyed the book immensely.

    The story was as it should be, with good explanations and descriptions of what was happening. There are some stand out moments that I really hope they keep as they were in the book but I do share others views that Hollywood (tm) just can't tell a good story without passing it through their "how to make a money - making film" machine.

    I hope that the excellent visuals live up to my imagination.

  32. Mitoo Bobsworth

    " the shit out of this"

    A barium enema should do it.

  33. hatti

    Maaaaatt Daamoooooon

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