Tracks from the Curiosity rover crossing dunes on the Dingo Gap on Mars

Mark Watney and Romantic Work


I just finished watching the movie The Martian and I must admit I haven’t read the book, but its just jumped to the top of my list.

I walked out of the theater feeling refreshed and hopeful, which a lot of movies have made me feel before, but the source of that energy felt different this time around.

So much achievement in films is from a characters unknown inherent ability, fate, magic or Deus Ex Machina. Occasionally a training montage sees a protagonist rise from her relative obscurity to full fitness for whatever challenge the movie presents.

But in the end the work is obscured, the pitfalls of just grinding out and doing the work required with resilience is hard to capture in a film so instead its often romantically condensed and taken for granted. The Martian is all about the work because its practically the second character in the movie alongside astronaut Watney; the work of escaping Mars receives its fair camera time in all its grit and glory.

It highlights that survival meant trust, preparedness, and resilience against setbacks when things seem to be going your way. And there was no quick win. In the end years had passed before a resolution came and even with the climax every moment was hard fought.

And it doesn’t hurt that at every turn science, logic, and arithmetic quickness underpinned all hopes of survival. In a world where the most powerful country on it struggles to acknowledge plain scientific truths, that tasted just as sweet as the rest of it.

I look forward to seeing the next major motion picture starring work.

Oh …and Matt Damon was good too.

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