From Ares to Ants

When referring to the movie, the time I put is a shot of what i am talking about.

The movie adaption of the Martian can be read just as much as the original text version. Every part of a movie is intentional. The ability to retake shots and splice together all of the desired parts has allowed movie making to be a very deliberate art. While most people will not notice much of what the director worked to add into the movie, their brains will. By “their brains” I mean their subconscious. We have studied humans enough to know how to appeal to them and directors take this to heart. They shoot their movies to do exactly this. Because of this, there are “rules” when it comes to positioning. According to Roger Ebert high means power, low means lack of power, left means negative, and right means positive. These rules can be broken to add a creative touch, but the Martian follows the rules to a tee so that he can accurately convey his message.

The first example of this is in the leaving Mars scene. Initially, the crew is view from a very low angle 0:2:41. This makes them seem like the gods of Mars as they do their tasks. Then, as the storm rolls in, the angle increases, showing that Mars is the truly dominant one 0:5:52. In this scene you can also see the right and left dichotomy. The crew is moving from the now dangerous HAB to the ship from left to right 0:5:29. The ship is also tilting to the left 0:5:46. Both of these instances follow the rules of direction. More examples of Martian using these rules to covey the appropriate feelings are as follows: Teddy ideally placed for the speech 0:9:49, Vincent versus Teddy showing Vincent as the positive one 0:30:03, Mars being portrayed as an enemy as it is in the far left during Vincent’s speech 0:38:57, and the switch between very low to very high angles when viewing Mark in the Rover showing him as a small god of his own realm 0:38:10 and 0:38:57. In addition to the angles, the art of movie-making involves the ability to show not tell. Because of this, the director has to tell the book’s story without heavy verbal exposition.

The opening shot of the film is a great example of this. While the title may give it away, the first shot is of the Sun cresting over Mars. Mars is placed in a position that is often filled by Earth. This compares Earth with Mars and the following landscape shots make the contrast even greater. While the scene’s purpose is to separate Mars from Earth, the comparison in and of itself gives the sense that Mars is somewhat similar to Earth and might have once been exactly like it. All of this would need to be explained by a narrator or through characters in a book, but the movie is able to do it without a word. Other examples of showing without telling are: Marks’s surgery showing the pain and Mark’s medical abilities 0:14:20, the use of a second pathfinder to show how Earth is communicating with Mark without need for exposition 0:47:48, the use of the same scene of Mark holding up a plant to show it was him despite his appearance change due to aging 2:11:35, and Mark’s reference to the layout of the chapters in the book 2:13:15. The excellent use of these elements is not only due to the director’s skill but also to secondary orality. The story already existed for the director. The book laid out the guidelines to allow the director to perfect the story in the movie realm.

-Jack Blaes

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One thought on “From Ares to Ants

  1. Good observations about the film. I would like, however, to have you quote Ebert directly when you talk about things like the “left right dichotomy” so that your reader will be able to follow your argument.

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