‘The Martian’ pushes the boundaries of creation

“The Martian” (2015). Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Michael Peña, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Donald Glover, Benedict Wong, Mackenzie Davis, Chen Shu, Eddy Ko. Director: Ridley Scott. Screenplay: Drew Goddard. Book, Andy Weir, The Martian. Web site. Trailer.

When circumstances arise where we find our backs up against the wall, it’s time to take action. But what action? What if the conditions appear insurmountable? It’s at times like that when brains (or imagination) are just as important as brawn. Learning how to push the boundaries of our creative capabilities is essential in such scenarios, a prospect explored in detail in director Ridley Scott’s new sci-fi adventure, “The Martian.”

The tightly knit crew of the Ares III mission to Mars truly seems to be enjoying its adventure. Their good-natured approach to life and work on the Red Planet makes their task look like fun, despite the inherent risks involved with being in a hostile, unfamiliar environment roughly 50 million miles from home. But that joviality quickly evaporates when a severe windstorm approaches, threatening the crew’s habitat – not to mention the viability of the mission itself. Before long, howling winds and thick dust clouds inundate their settlement, and the crew is suddenly faced with having to abort their mission.

However, as the astronauts hastily prepare to make their escape, tragedy strikes when a large piece of flying debris strikes crewman Mark Watney (Matt Damon). In an instant Watney is swept away, out of sight. With his stunned colleagues looking on in horror, the crew frantically scrambles to find him. But, with their visibility totally obscured and the emergency launch window rapidly closing, mission commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) is forced into a difficult decision: Presuming that there’s no way Watney could have survived the accident, and with no time to mount a concerted search effort under the prevailing conditions, Lewis issues the evacuation order.

The surviving members of the Ares crew (Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie) thus blast off and head for home, profoundly sad over having to leave their fallen colleague behind. But, as that tragic realization sets in, an even greater one is about to surface: The friend they left for dead – though injured – somehow managed to survive.

Watney is now alone to fend for himself. True, he has some supplies to get by, but they’ll only last a matter of months, far short of the four years it will take to organize and implement a rescue mission (an undertaking that may not even happen since everyone believes him to be dead). What is he to do?

Watney’s first priority is to tend to his injuries. Then he must address such crucial survival issues as how to generate enough breathable air, how to recycle and condense sufficient water, and how to raise crops on a planet where nothing grows. Thanks to his wealth of scientific knowledge and a dash of ingenuity, he manages to successfully tackle these issues to keep him going long enough to confront an even bigger challenge – figuring out a way to contact Earth to let his peers know that he’s still alive.

With the aid of some old school technology and some clever communications techniques, Watney is able to inform his terrestrial colleagues about his fate, who are, needless to say, stunned. But, while they’re happy Mark is alive, they’re also unsure how to proceed. Those questions are left to NASA Administrator Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels), Mars Mission Director Dr. Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and a team of specialists at Mission Control and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Sean Bean, Benedict Wong, Mackenzie Davis). And then there’s the public’s perception to be managed, a task left to NASA media coordinator Annie Montrose (Kristen Wiig).

The bottom line in all this is, can Mark Watney be saved? Can a rescue mission be mounted in time (or at all)? And what happens if (or when) unexpected challenges arise? In the end, will the stranded explorer be able to make it home, or will he be left to live out his days on Mars? All of those questions hang in the balance as this odyssey plays out on two worlds and the space in between.

The story in this film presents a textbook scenario for experimentation of all kinds. Superficially speaking, it’s ideal for trying out various solutions to tangible challenges. But, on a deeper, metaphysical level, it also affords an unparalleled opportunity to test the principles of conscious creation, the means by which we create our reality through our thoughts, beliefs and intents.

In particular, the complex, multifaceted challenges Watney and his earthbound colleagues must address present all concerned with a model exercise in learning how to overcome limitations. Solving the issues at hand unquestionably requires pushing boundaries and trying the untried. One might even look upon this as a program of metaphysical calisthenics, one that calls upon Watney and company to flex the strength and stamina of their personal manifestation muscles.

One way to accomplish this is to employ all the skills in one’s conscious creation toolbox. Specifically, this means formulating beliefs that make the impossible possible, no matter how seemingly unlikely. Accomplishing this requires drawing upon – as fully as possible – the elements that shape our beliefs, namely, our intellect and intuition. And, as becomes apparent in the film, Watney and his colleagues do just that when they tap their scientific knowledge and ingenuity, components of the materialization process that symbolically represent their respective underlying intellectual and intuitive counterparts.

Another key consideration that Watney draws upon in his conscious creation efforts is the faith he places in his beliefs, particularly those related to his survivability. His confidence and self-assurance are so strong that virtually every task he undertakes succeeds. He even keeps a video diary of his experience, convinced that it’s information that will be shared one day (and that may be helpful to others who find themselves in comparable circumstances in the future). That steadfast commitment to those beliefs comes through loud and clear in Mark’s video log entries, where he routinely – and boldly – asserts that he won’t die on Mars, that he will, in fact, survive.

Of course, none of this would be possible were it not for the power of co-creation, the practice of working together for successful resolution. As the story unfolds, the efforts of both Watney and his NASA peers (like “orbital dynamicist” Rich Purnell (Donald Glover)) take on added importance. In fact, as events play out, even more collaborators become involved in the process, including some unexpectedly helpful Chinese peers (Chen Shu, Eddy Ko). This joint effort thus takes on broader ramifications than simply bringing home a stranded American.

When all of these conscious creation tactics are considered collectively, it’s easy to see the many elements that go into making this practice work and the countless ways it can be put to use. The film shows us the myriad possibilities open to us for addressing our problems, that solutions to even seemingly unsolvable issues are accessible if we put our minds (and hearts) to the process. This is the sort of “can-do” attitude that typified NASA in its glory days of the Moon Race, an outlook that set a shining example and captivated the imagination of an impressionable, wide-eyed generation. But such a viewpoint is applicable to more than the exploration of space; it’s also just as pertinent to investigating the avenues of existence.

“The Martian” is easily one of director Ridley Scott’s best cinematic efforts. It offers viewers a highly entertaining story with impressive special effects and a surprising amount of humor. Admittedly, the film is slightly overlong and somewhat predictable, and nitpickers could probably point to a few plot devices, scientific elements and 3D effects that don’t work quite as well as they should. But these drawbacks are compensated for by the picture’s strengths, as well as a solid performance by Matt Damon. Despite its minor faults, the film is definitely a cut above many of 2015’s other sci-fi releases and most of the high-profile (and highly overrated) space adventures of recent years (such as “Prometheus” (2012), “Gravity” (2013) and “Interstellar” (2014)). The picture is already garnering a fair amount of awards buzz, especially in the technical categories, as well as for Damon’s lead performance.

It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention, and Mark Watney can certainly attest to that. But even the most difficult challenges we face can be addressed successfully with the right outlook and approach. That’s where our understanding of, and faith in, the conscious creation process can pay off tremendously. And, by drawing upon the example set in “The Martian,” there’s no telling what we might be able to overcome.

Copyright © 2015, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

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