The Martian is a fantastic movie. I just finished watching it for the umteenth time. It’s a masterful work in every aspect. But if I may be so bold, it could have been a little better.
Mark Watney is alone on Mars. No companionship. Not even a stuffed animal. Except for the rover he scavenged: Sojourner. Sojourner was the first robotic/wheeled rover on Mars and has a special place in the history of Martian exploration, befitting the amazing woman it is named after.
There are only a few shots in the movie showing Sojourner wheeling around the habitat where Mark lives. What I would propose is to add just a few moments to illustrate how Mark’s interaction with the little rover evolves into something closer — into treating it like a pet.
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Even though Sojourner is only metal and circuits, it’s still the only other animated object on Mars. It wouldn’t be a stretch for Mark to grow attached to it…similar to the role a volleyball — Wilson — played for Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) in Cast Away. I would propose throttling back a little on the anthropomorphizing compared to Cast Away, but you get my meaning.
When it’s time for Mark to leave, perhaps he couldn’t resist taking the little rover with him and sneaking it onto the flight to reunite with his crew. Of course, just as in Cast Away, Mark has to sacrifice the little rover to save himself. Perhaps Mark would attach a tether to the rover, slinging it around as a counterweight to toss off so he could drift close enough to the Hermies to be rescued. That would have been poignant and would work, just so long as it’s not overdone.
What do you think? Would that have improved the story, or was it perfect the way it was?
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Jill Florio Administrator
I love The Martian and your idea would definitely make it cuter. I enjoyed the (longer) book even more than the film, but I think you’re right: he didn’t anthropomorphize anything. I know personally I would do that in some way out of desperation, had I been stuck alone so long with so little hope of rescue. Look at the mouse in The Green Mile, for another example.
In Cast Away, Wilson ‘himself’ is presented as a bit of a psychosis for Chuck by the end, and I guess Andy Weir didn’t want to imply anything like that for Watney. Astronauts are supposed to be extremely emotionally stable.
But in terms of just plain humanity, I get it. I’m alone here in Brazil, and it’s only been two months. I already picked up a little stuffed animal to hug, as I miss human contact — esp now with social distancing. Hugging my stupid little plushie at night helps. We’re just wired that way. Look at those (hideous) infamous infant monkey deprivation experiments: the babies would rather starve than give up cuddling a cloth wrapped mother figure.
So yeah, I would have had Watney treat his Rover like a pet, and it would have been a sweet plot point, but I get why Weir didn’t go there. I’m just happy we got an Iron Man reference!