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I’ve always been a bit wary of astronaut movies. It isn’t that I have a fear of outer space in the science fiction sense (I’m as big a trekkie as they come), but when it comes to reality? Well, that usually scares the crap out of me. I blame movies like SpaceCamp and You Only Live Twice for that, as fictitious as they may be. As a kid, I could barely get through Apollo 13 without continually asking my mom if they would be okay, and it took me years to properly appreciate that film. That being said, I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy The Martian. I refused to see it in the theater, worried that I might have a panic attack. But after it was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and won numerous other accolades, I decided I should give it a try. I’m happy to report that this is one of those movies I was completely wrong about.
Based on Andy Weir’s novel, The Martian tells the story of that one time your friends drove off and forgot you were still in the Taco Bell bathroom; okay not exactly, but take that situation and escalate it times a million and set it in outer space. During a manned mission to Mars, a violent dust storm forces the Ares III crew to abandon their research and go back to their orbiting ship. During the evacuation, botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is hit by debris and separated from the group. Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) attempts to find him before the emergency take off, but is forced to leave him behind. The storm worsens, and they presume him dead since the signal from his suit doesn’t show signs of life. The next sol (Martian solar day), Mark wakes up to find that he’s alone and injured. He’s able to tend to his wound at the Hab (the crew’s base of operations/habitation), but that’s the least of his worries. Aside from the fact that the machines that provide water and oxygen could malfunction, the mission was only supposed to last a certain number of days. As a result, the Hab is a temporary shelter, and there’s only so much food. On top of everything, Mark has no way to contact NASA.