Saturday, October 31, 2015

Stranded on Mars

I don't do Halloween. Haven't for a long time. Sugar gives me a headache, so I don't want candy in the house. I also don't want to hand out such things as pencils or quarters. And since I don't have children of my own I can skip the whole thing. If Halloween isn't a rehearsal night I usually go out for supper and a movie or concert. Today I planned to do the same. And since the cineplex was next to a mall I went a half hour early so I could get some exercise by walking the mall before stopping at a restaurant for my meal. But, not having kids and ignoring Halloween, I missed a big detail.

Halloween at the mall.

The crowds were huge, slowly flowing past stores where sales people were handing out goodies. Luckily, they all went in one direction and stayed to one side of the walkway. I could take the inside track and keep a good pace. I could also bypass the crowds by walking around inside the department stores. And the restaurants were only half-full. In spite of the crowds I doubt the stores did much business.

The movie was The Martian, an adaptation of the book I read three months ago. This was a case where the movie was at least as good, if not better, than the book. The big reason was the visuals, which were stunning – the Martian landscape, the spacecraft, the look of the technology, the image of the habitat as a full residence. The screenplay tended to assume the viewer could keep up and in many places implied as much as said or showed the second half of a scene where it was clear what had gone on in the part not shown.

Of course, there were differences. The movie doesn't show the guy stranded on Mars spelling out messages in Morse code with rocks. It doesn't show him building and using the extra room he unfolded from the rover at every stop. It leaves out one of the sandstorms. And the actual method of rescue is different and done by a different character. And, of course, it doesn't go into the details of the calculations he does to keep himself alive.

Overall, a wonderful evening.

After reading the book I heard an NPR interview of the book's author, Andy Weir. He said there is one bit in the book and movie, the thing that sets the whole story in motion, can't actually happen. That's the dust storm that aborts the mission leaving one guy stranded. Though the winds would be as fast as depicted, the air on Mars is so thin it would barely be felt, and not at all capable of causing all the damage it did.

Even so, cool story. I wonder how they filmed the weightless scenes?

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