The Martian

10 Things Parents Should Know About ‘The Martian’

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The Martian, starring Matt Damon, is a thrilling action-adventure movie about persistence and ingenuity. Set in the near future, it is a realistic and believable rescue tale of both individual grit and unselfish teamwork.

What is it about?
The description of “Apollo 11 meets Cast Away” is spot-on. A team of Mars explorers is forced to evacuate the planet and abandon their fellow astronaut, believing him dead. The marooned Mark Watney (Matt Damon) wakes up to discover he has not died, and thereafter stubbornly refuses to do so. It is a gripping tale of Boy Scout-style extreme wilderness survival and MacGyver-like ingenuity.

Do I need to have read the book to enjoy it?
Caveat: I haven’t read the book, so the answer is no. There are no gaping holes of missing background exposition in this film. The acclaimed well-researched, tech-heavy science of the book gets artfully incorporated into the screenplay without alienating the non-geek audience.

Will I like it?
Yes. I briefly checked the ratings before I went (having been burned on Fantastic Four), and it lived up to every star. If you are a geek (presumably you aren’t reading this by accident), there’s something there for you, from the techy science to the Kubrick-esque space scenes. Let’s be clear though–there are no actual ‘alien’ Martians, just in case you were expecting that.

There was nothing you could have done, Luke, had you been there. You'd have been killed too, and the droids would now be in the hands of the Empire.
There was nothing you could have done, Luke, had you been there. You’d have been killed too, and the droids would now be in the hands of the Empire.

Will my kids like it?
This is not a movie suitable for young children. Neither is it really a teen movie. Ultimately it’s more drama than sci-fi, albeit with a much faster pace than Interstellar. There are no laser guns, love stories or punch-ups, but there’s still enough action and adventure to interest some youngsters.

Is the rating appropriate?
In Australia, The Martian is rated M (for age 15+). In the US, it’s PG-13, citing some strong language, injury images, and brief nudity. This amounts to just a handful of F-words (verbal, written, or just mouthed), and Damon’s bum. Having said that, the themes of persistence and endurance and of the ordinary person doing extraordinary things under pressure are a healthy food for young minds compared to the relatively amoral gun-fests and sex-romps often pitched to youngsters. Other than the occasional bad language (which arguably the movie could have done without) this is a clean movie with positive themes.

When is a good time for a bathroom break?
Before the movie or after it. If you have a weak bladder, bring a bedpan. Honestly, the plot didn’t stop moving, and it felt like the tension was constantly being reapplied just when you thought things were turning out OK. But if you simply can’t make it, perhaps the scene where the two Chinese officials start talking (in Chinese) is a good cue. The supplementary feel-good theme of international cooperation may be lost, but you can take it for granted that someone found a spare rocket from somewhere, and the plot is scarcely affected.

Octonauts: to the launch bay!
Octonauts: to the launch bay!

How’s the special effects?
The panoramas of Mars are spectacular, and you never doubt for a second that you are actually there. I was also impressed with the zero-gravity shots. Ever since I learned about “actors-on-wires” I’ve been almost seeing them in other space movies killing the magic ever so slightly, but this one had me wondering how on earth (or otherwise) they managed it.

What about the acting?
First of all, I’m a big fan of Matt Damon, even though I think he doesn’t have a necessarily broad spectrum of emotional styles. He fits into the main role smoothly, and the fact that his character rarely loses his cool (or otherwise wouldn’t have survived) fits the actor’s style perfectly. Jeff Daniels was a convincing director of NASA–constantly weighing up the big decisions, but seldom conflicted. Sean Bean played his rather rebellious foil doing the wrong things for the right reasons–in one scene I almost hoped he’d bust out a Boromir line. Of the minor roles, my favorite was Donald Glover, the super-nerd who saves the day with a shining scene of his own that would resonate with any slightly-socially-outcast geek.

How’s the music?
A soundtrack as unexpected for a sci-fi movie as Guardians of the Galaxy‘s was. You might not necessarily run out and buy the CD unless you really like ’80s disco, in which case you probably don’t need to. But the music actually formed a plot point and helped to break up the non-stop tension.

Is the 3D worth it?
I watched it in 2D only, and I can’t imagine that the alternative would add much more. If you get a kick out of the 3D experience then perhaps some Mars surface vistas or zero-gravity floating shrapnel might be fun. But the movie is not dominated by such shots, and it didn’t seem like there were any Avatar-style made-for-3D moments that would be lost in two dimensions.

One cinema takes Gold Lounge to a whole new level
One cinema takes Gold Lounge to a whole new level.

Do I need to stay to the end of the credits?
The final scene forms part of and flows nicely into the start of the credits. You might skip it if you really want to beat the crowds to the car park, but I thought it was a nice epilogue worth staying for. After that, I didn’t stay until the final curtain (see above regarding bathroom breaks).

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10 thoughts on “10 Things Parents Should Know About ‘The Martian’

  1. When Andy Weird did an interview on ProductHunt I specificaly asked him about the language and the movie rating (before the movie was out, obviously), because I wanted to take my 9yr old. He told me at the time that it would PG, and that they had taken out most of the language. I was thrilled. So was my son. Then the rating comes out and not only did they leave all the language in, some genius decided to add “brief nudity” to the list :(. Just how had is the language? If it’s PG13 because there’s 2 or 3 F-words instead of the standard 1 allowed, I can live with it (after all, didn’t somebody tell me that We Bought A Zoo, another family picture with Matt Damon, also had such language?) But if, like the book, it’s just a never ending stream of them, that might outweigh any educational benefit I hope he gets out of it.

    1. It’s really not bad – much tamer than the book, and I’m only up to page 12. From memory there were only a few profanities, and chiefly in the first half-hour or so. One scene even makes a humorous feature of a particularly bad tirade, none of which we hear. I’m no fan of the F-bomb, and this movie could have done just as well without it, but there were no swears just for the sake of it.

      A favourite website of mine is kids-in-mind.com where you can get a good run-down of all the content. I’m surprised they rated it as high as they did on gore and profanity. I’d give both 3/10 max.

      1. Honestly, if being stuck on Mars with the distinct possibility that you might die doesn’t rate an F-bomb or three, then nothing else does, either. People swear in extreme situations, it is part of being human. None of the profanity was gratuitous, or unjustified for the moment, unlike other movies that spit it out at the drop of a hat. I think the movie would have come across as sterile and phony if they’d whitewashed the language.

    2. It says a lot about this country that a man’s bare rear end can contribute to a PG-13 rating. I can’t figure out what kind of world views a person must have to prevent anybody from seeing that. There’s a good chance a kid will be messed up worse by the implicit message of being ashamed of his or her body.

      On the entirety of your comment, I’ll expose my kids to a couple non-sexual F words and a man’s bare ass in a thoughtful, science-filled PG-13 movie over the cartoon violence in most of the PG movies out there any day.

  2. Correction:
    Apollo 11 was the first successful manned lunar landing. Apollo 13 was the mission that blew a fuel cell oxygen tank at about 200,000 miles from Earth.

    John

    1. I’m pretty sure Apollo 13 meets Castaway would be more like “Gravity.” At least they *land* on Mars… I’d say Gary picked the right number. 🙂

  3. “If you have a weak bladder, bring a bedpan”….Lol… thanks so much for the thorough review. It served as a guide of whether we should take our kids.

  4. I watched this with my 9 year old. The language and injury were nothing to worry about, although the surgery was uncomfortable for him.
    What I felt was more important was the determination, cool headed logic and something that surprised me: a movie that was almost not sexist in 2015. I declare the 2010s to be the most sexist I’ve ever seen if my lifetime (by far).
    After watching ant man have a woman punch a man in the face like it was cool, I’ve had enough of aggressive female ninja warriors. There were plenty of female scientists in the movie and none of them were CEO/scientist/ninja warrior/brain surgeon rolled into one – they were just people doing their jobs – almost unheard of in today’s movies (see Star Wars 7 for an example of said propaganda).. Other than the last scene in the classroom (purposely filmed to be female top heavy with camera angles like citizen 6’s similar propaganda scene) and a subtle but obvious “if you are a flawed character, I guarantee you’re white/male”, the movie was actually much better balanced than almost any other film I saw this year.
    I would highly recommend it for just about anyone (particularly the feel food and science aspects).
    If you take your child, it’s worth discussing some of the mistakes (eg. The sound of strong wind on Mars). If you are Politically Correct, delay kids seeing it until they’re 21. For those with common sense, 8-9 is the youngest I’d suggest because of the surgery scene.

  5. My kids (ages 14, 11, 9) loved this movie. They loved to see the science and watch him work the problems. The part where he pulls the satellite part from his stomach was gross for them, but otherwise they enjoyed it.

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