Ask most people to name their favorite science fiction films, and many of the answers you’ll get aren’t really science fiction. Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, USA/Hong Kong/UK 1982) is film noir set in the future. Alien (Ridley Scott, USA/UK 1979) is a horror film set in space. Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron, USA/UK 2013) is a chase film set in space. Even Star Wars (George Lucas, USA 1977) is really a traditional sword-and-sorcery fantasy film set in space. Science fiction is one of the most misunderstood phrases in all of film. Science fiction has to be about real or imagined technology, and the problems and results of that technology have to be central to the film.
The Martian, on the other hand, is a real science fiction film. What is it about? The difficulties of getting a man back home after he is left on mars following a manned mission that is cut short. It doesn’t have a deeper point to make (to its detriment) and it doesn’t use Mars as a backdrop to make a film that has little to do with its setting. It really is two and a half hours of watching to see how he survives long enough for NASA to get him back to earth. Continue reading