Ridley Scott's The Martian is an entertaining yarn, but it may prove to be just a temporary distraction before Kim Stanley Robinson's iconic Mars trilogy arrives on the small screen.
Director: Ridley Scott
THE MARTIAN HAS DONE well at the box office and its easy to see why. It's an entertaining science fiction romp with the added bonus that the science and engineering, if not perfect, doesn't stretch credibility. Director Ridley Scott largely sticks to what's possible rather than what's fantastical and the movie is all the better for it.
The fact that the film was released in the week when NASA announced it had found compelling evidence that water still existed on Mars would not of harmed ticket sales either.
Based on Andy Weir's 2011 novel, The Martian is Robinson Crusoe updated. Indeed Weir, who self-published his novel after it was rejected by a succession of publishers, pitched it as being Apollo 13 meets Cast Away. That's the kind of language Hollywood understands.
Matt Damon is astronaut Mark Watney inadvertently left behind on Mars by his NASA crew mates and is obliged to survive until help comes. It's solidly unpretentious and works because of that. The Martian is a return to form for director Ridley Scott, who has made some clangers of late (eg Prometheus). The Martian is no Bladerunner but it's a better movie than Interstellar which got bogged down in some quasi religious themes, some dodgy science and some not entirely liberating politics.
Matt Damon's left wing politics are well known but The Martian isn't Elysium, an allegorical film about global injustice and Ridley Scott isn't a political director.
But perhaps the most interesting science fiction project on the drawing board right now is one that doesn't involve Hollywood.
Kim Stanley Robinson's iconic Mars trilogy - Red Mars (1993), Green Mars (1994), and Blue Mars (1996) - explores the creation of an egalitarian society on Mars based on broadly socialist principles. There are two revolutions during the course of the trilogy and which eventually sees the Mars colonists break with the capitalism of Earth. The books explore what it really means to be human when people are freed of an economic system that denies their humanity.
James Cameron (Terminator, Avatar) once held the rights and was intending to make a five hour miniseries. It never eventuated and the trilogy has now been picked up by the American cable network Spike TV.
Whether the television adaptation will remain true to the novels remains to be seen , but Robinson has apparently been hired as a consultant so early indications are that the political integrity of the novels will be respected.