Everything in a film these days, especially those made by seasoned director Ridley Scott, is completely intentional. Every detail is polished to have the most meaningful and strongest impact. Successful films take advantage of our senses of sight and sound. They act on the subconscious and present stories in the most aesthetically and sonically pleasing way.
To read a movie, we must become conscious of these decisions and assume every frame is intentional and crafted. Ridley Scott’s rendition of The Martian displays his mastery of storytelling through this contemporary medium. From the beginning of the movie, the viewer is being manipulated. The chaos of the storm on Mars is portrayed through many of anxiety-inducing points of view. The camera may show the lights in the dark abyss to show how helpless the astronauts are. The dark heavily outweighs the light, showing their loss of control. It may then cut to the camera setups actually on the astronauts to out the viewer in the the position of the Mars team, and attempt to have them match their terror. In this scene it occasionally jumps to inside the MAV to create a stark contrast between the complete madness outside the clean, calmness of NASA infrastructure. Later in the movie, the camera angles are played with more, getting creative between switching to log cameras and steady cam shots. Every cut, every angle was engineered to create a very specific feeling for the viewer.
Reading this film also highlights the importance of Matt Damon’s performance. His emotions are skillfully portrayed so that the viewer subconsciously builds admiration and a relationship with him. When he succeeds, we cheer. When disaster strikes, we empathize. This relationship is built from every small scene that shapes his character.
The final element I discovered in this reading was the importance of the the soundtrack. Music has always been known to affect emotions, but when combined with the camera and acting elements, a monumental effect is created. The music builds us up during his productive montages, puts us on the edge of our seats when things get tight, and tears us down when the end seems near.
Referring back to Walter Ong’s comments on secondary orality, The Martian’s journey to the silver screen show how an idea told in a medium separate from the original inception can transform. In a way, this is tertiary orality, where Weir’s thoughts were primary and the novel is secondary. The communication of this story is only made possible by the film technologies we have today, and it is an absolute thrill.