An Alien Way of Telling a Story

[Spoilers for The Martian]

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Hollywood has become very successful at making a profit. The studios have a formula that they stick to for almost all their films. While this may not be a traditional step-by-step guide, it does shape how American films are made. For example, in most movies today, there is a “good versus bad” dynamic. There is almost always a definite and happy ending. However, some of the details in this formula seemed to be challenged recently. There are a lot of changes happening because the way we consume media is going through some of the biggest transformations ever.

Television is moving from cable to online streaming and with that change comes a change in the style and quality of production. Shows like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad are becoming more and more popular. These shows are made to look and feel like movies. They also play with traditional conventions. There is no longer a good guy or bad guy. We do not always get all our questions answered. A recent film that played with traditional conventions is Jurassic World. It took little things — like a woman running through a jungle in heels — and made fun of them to show how predictable Hollywood has become. With all this change will come new innovations. The Martian is one of those films that pushes the boundaries of what films are usually too afraid to do.

Looking at The Martian without doing too much research will make you think that it’s just another typical Hollywood movie. It has a big budget, a cast full of big stars, was heavily marketed, and is full of action. In reality, this film was breaking tradition before it even became a film. Andy Weir is the author of the novel the film is based on. When writing, he did his research to make sure that all the science was as realistic as possible. It helped a lot that he had a background in computer science and that his father was a particle physicist. The Martian shows how books are changing a lot these days as well. With no luck in getting previous work published by traditional means, Weir decided to self-publish his novel chapter by chapter for free on his website. After his novel gained some traction, fans demanded that he publish it as an e-book. It became a bestseller soon after.

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