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The Martian (Ridley Scott, 2015) - post-viewing prompts

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  • The Martian (Ridley Scott, 2015) - post-viewing prompts

    1. How does The Martian view the motives behind science? Watney claims (to himself) that “Mars will come to fear his botany powers", proclaims further, when he has succeeded in creating water, "F--k you Mars!", and later indicates that he has "only one option" in the face of another obstacle--—to “science the shit out of it."

    2. Teddy Sanders, the head of NASA, decides that Watney's crew-mates should not be informed that he survived. He claims that he wants them to focus on their mission, but would that be any easier if they believed their friend and colleague was dead rather than still having some (albeit slim) chance to survive? When the crew was in fact informed, did they react as Sanders anticipated? Was the news that Watney had survived good news from their perspective? How was their reaction conditioned by the fact that the decision to leave Mars without him was not democratic, in that all but the captain was acting upon orders?

    3. How was Watney's presumed death justified by Sanders at the premature funeral? How was his very likely death later justified by Watney himself when instructing his commander as to what to tell his parents in the event he did die? Were those just rationalizations or would they really have justified his death and presumably the life that led up to it?

    4. What are the flight director Mitch Henderson's concerns when he argues, first, that the crew of the Hermes ought to be informed about Watney’s survival and, second, that the crew ought to decide whether or not they ought to go back for him once that plan is proposed? Why does Henderson go so far as to risk his career by going behind Sanders' back to tell the crew of the possibility of such a plan? Was he right in doing so, or did he risk even larger things (the astronauts' lives and Sanders' mission to "keep us airborne")?

    5. Though Watney in many ways suffers his isolation and other aspects of his situation, he also finds value and a kind of meaning in them by the fact that they put him in the position to do so many things first or "fastest". What value does that have? Should we place value in being the first to do something or to do it the most, even if one might be in such a position by pure chance or even mishap, that is if it doesn't even speak to an excellence of one's own?

    6. Near the very end of the film, as Watney makes his way to address the assembled group of new “astronaut candidates”, after having briefly said "hey there" to a small plant that resembled the potato plants he grew on Mars but growing up from the pebbles under his feet now on Earth, the film displays on the screen “DAY 1” (mirroring the “SOL 70”, “SOL 128”, "SOL 461", etc. marking his time on Mars earlier in the film). What does this suggestion of a new beginning mean?

    7. In his brief speech to those astronaut candidates, Watney elaborates what is perhaps the central message of the film: " can get to work. That's all it is. You just begin. You do the math; you solve one problem and you solve the next one, and then the next. And if you solve enough problems, you get to come home." Is this what we are left with for the possibility of meaning in our existence, just more individual and collective effort to solve problems and survive? Human life is no longer to be regarded as any kind of means in the service of larger ends, but simply an end in itself. We live only to struggle to live a bit more? Is that idea of meaning enough? She we all get on board "a love train” and let it “keep on riding” as the song that plays immediately afterward implores? Or perhaps just "survive!” as the subsequent song endorses?
    Last edited by Steven Brence; 02-21-2016, 10:49 PM.