Racism Is Over: The Martian

Seriously, Don’t.

Welcome to Racism is Over! A weekly post into the best cinematic offerings in current Australian theatres that offer diversity in cast and diversity in character.

This week’s movie is Ridley Scott’s Sci-fi feel good space movie, The Martian!

Based on Andy Weir’s novel, the film shows the trials and tribulations of Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) as he is left on Mars after a freak storm hit his team following a manned research mission on the planet. Watney’s efforts are supported by the ground NASA team and also his crew in transit back to Earth. Because of the distance between Earth and Mars, Watney is forced to rely on his creative problem solving, the ground team’s fast thinking and the technology left behind by his mission team to survive the harsh conditions of life-less Mars.

This movie is super good. The narrative is consistently engaging and doesn’t really bore you with exposition that is the norm of the whole Sci-Fi genre. Close collaboration with NASA enabled a real-world take on an actual space program, which made the overall movie believable despite its larger-than-life characters and storyline.

So, where do we start? Seriously. This movie almost brought a tear to my eye with all the color I saw on screen. The film brought together a message of hope and humanity that actually reflects on reality. The movie felt real because the background of characters that it reflects is real. NASA and the JPL is filled with researchers and scientists of colour – just like the real world is filled with people other than caucasians. Without ground team heroes Director Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Astrodynamicist Richard Purnell (Donald Glover), Pilot Rick Martinez (Micheal Pena) and Director Bruce Ng (Benedict Wong), Watney would’ve died there – which would make for a terrible movie, I’m sure.

Honestly, I was a bit reluctant to watch this film because the marketing team had put much emphasis on the Watney character – so I had thought that it would be another “resourceful man escapes with the glory of his mind” kind of movie. But the NASA ground team are the real heroes of this movie, with their interactions having way more screentime and affecting Watney’s story – and survival – when it really counted.

Sadly, the Hollywood machine did have its hand in changing the race of Satellite Communications Officer Mindy Park (who was supposed to be Korean here, played by Caucasian Mackenzie ) and also the aforementioned Director Kapoor (he’s supposed to be Indian). While it does have this problem, I’d have to still begrudgingly admit that the movie is still what it is – a film with the best diversity in the mainstream. (Sad isn’t it? Check out this blog post to see why!)

To recap:

In ‘Saving Private Ryan’, Tom Hanks had saved Matt Damon. In ‘Interstellar’, Matthew McConaghuey did. So, who saved Matt this time in ‘The Martian’?

Humanity did.

And I couldn’t have it any other way.

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