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Trivia / The Martian

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The Book:

  • Approval of God: Andy Weir really has shown his work on the science involved in his book, especially in how NASA deals with situations arising from manned missions in outer space. And the people of NASA loved the book so much, they even adapted some of Watney's invented terminologies, like the "pirate-ninja" unit of measurement for power consumption per solar day, in their actual work.
    • The film adaptation was able to take into advantage NASA's fondness for the novel by having the agency review the scientific aspects of the story treatment pro bono plus permission to display the NASA logo in their spacesuit and spacecraft props (Note that NASA, as a public, tax-funded agency, does not take too lightly on attempts to "commercialize" their brand and the work they do). Needless to say, however, NASA also benefitted a lot from the film's popularity in bolstering public interest on the ongoing Mars exploration program (the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers), paving the way for a possible manned mission to Mars.
  • Creator Backlash: Two very minor examples from Andy Weir: He wished that the book opened up with Watney getting stranded instead of showing that event later, and that the story used a more realistic reason to leave Mars than a dust storm (which in real life would not pose a threat to the astronauts) though he admitted the dust storm felt like a necessary force for a man vs. nature story. The former issue was corrected in the film adaptation.
    • Weir also later found out lightning storms are possible on Mars and had he known that probably would have went with that instead of the dust storm.
  • Defictionalization:
    • Mark, getting tired of reporting the amount of power his various devices consume in kilowatt-hours per sol, invents a new unit of measurement: the pirate-ninja. In an interview with Adam Savage, Andy Weir noted that the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Curiosity rover team has taken to referring to watt-hours per sol as milli-pirate-ninjas.
    • Mark jokes about the people back on Earth following his progress at There really is a website with that address, with its only content being an advertisement that a hardcover publication of the story is "coming soon."
  • Referenced by...:
    In the middle column, the colony ships she and her fleet had taken: the Bedyadat Jadida, out of Luna. The John Galt and the Mark Watney, out of Mars.
  • Science Marches On: This book is an odd case, because it has an enthusiastic following within NASA, specifically the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which runs Mars surface probes and orbiting satellites that are directly responsible for disproving some of the book's assumptions about Mars.
    • When Andy Weir was still writing, it was unknown how much water might be recoverable from the surface, likely very dry apart from the frozen poles. This is why Mark Watney burns hydrogen (catalytically cracked from leftover hydrazine)—to collect the water. Then Mars rover Curiosity finds that the Martian soil is loaded with ice particles—as much as 35 liters of liquid water per cubic meter of soil. The Martian had been published by then, but Weir didn't let it bother him. There are still dry areas, though, so burning hydrogen for water could still be necessary in certain situations.
    • It's now believed that liquid water flows on the surface of Mars to this day; some of the evidence coincidentally was discovered at Acidalia Planitia, where the novel is set. On the other hand, this water is without doubt extremely salty and acidic — due to high percentage of chlorate salts in the Martian soil — which lowers its freezing point enough to allow it to remain liquid, but makes its unsuitable for agriculture without distilling.
    • The book describes Acidalia Planitia as a "featureless wasteland" and Arabia Terra as rougher territory, which inspired JPL to look at those regions more closely... and determine that the geographic descriptions were actually inverted.
    • It was not known at the time that Martian soil contains fairly high amounts of perchlorate salt, which would make farming considerably more difficult if not impossible. However, some experiments undertaken since have shown potatoes to have a higher perchlorate tolerance than previously thought. (Given that Mark is a botanist, he would be one of the best crew members to know how to deal with the Martian soil regardless....)
  • Word of God: Although no dates are mentioned in the novel, Andy Weir has confirmed that the book begins on November 12, 2035 and ends on May 24, 2037. (He needed to set it on specific dates in order to figure out the flight path of the Hermes, which is dependant upon the relative positions of the planets.)

The Movie:

  • Ability over Appearance: Kapoor was Indian in the book but after Irrfan Khan was unable to come on board, he was played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. The character was then rewritten to be half-Indian and half-African, and his first name was changed from Venkat to Vincent. His religious background also changed, making him half-Hindu and half-Southern Baptist.
  • All-Star Cast: Goodness! Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Kristen Wiig.
  • Approval of God: Andy Weir very much approved of the film version, even going so far as to say he almost cried in the first four minutes just to see his book come to life on screen.
  • Backed by the Pentagon: The production team heavily collaborated with NASA for the film to make absolutely sure they got everything right. It helps that the Ares missions depicted in the story are based on real NASA plans for a voyage to Mars in the 2030s.
  • California Doubling:
    • Since mankind has yet to visit Mars, much less film there, a location on Earth had to be selected. In this case not California (or the American Southwest), but Wadi Rum, Jordan. This is a red-colored desert.
    • Budapest Doubling: The Chinese space center is a very recognizable building in Budapest (without the Chinese writing, obviously), with a similarly recognizable bridge in the background. The interior shots of NASA's mission control were also shot in Budapest in a shopping center / office building practically next door to the "Chinese space center".
  • Completely Different Title: The French title is Seul sur Mars ("Alone on Mars"). The Japanese title is Odyssey.
  • Dyeing for Your Art: Averted. Matt Damon was willing to lose weight to show the effects malnutrition had on Mark Watney's body but Ridley Scott opted to use a body double instead.
  • Executive Meddling: Ridley Scott was against calling the meeting “The council of Elrond” because he felt it was too meta having cast Sean Bean, insisting he use some other “nerd reference”, however executives insisted it stay the same as the book.
  • Fake Nationality: Aksel Hennie, a Norwegian actor, plays the German Alex Vogel.
  • One-Take Wonder: Matt Damon admitted that the scene where Mark was getting emotional upon hearing Commander Lewis' voice was genuine. The other actors had wrapped and gone home, and their pre-recorded voices were actually being played to Damon from inside his spacesuit. When Damon began to think about how his character had been all alone on Mars for two years, alongside how he was only hearing pre-recorded voices of his co-stars who had already finished their scenes, he began to tear up. Ridley Scott was so impressed with Damon's performance, that he only did one take of the scene, which was used in the film.
  • Playing Against Type: Sean Bean A) doesn't play the villain and B) doesn't die.note 
  • Reality Subtext: One of the promo videos has Mark making a joke about the Cubs holding off on winning the World Series until he gets home. Martinez, offscreen, snarks that it'll be easy, but this was written back before the Cubs finally won in 2016.
  • Screwed by the Lawyers: Although the running joke of Mark complaining about Lewis's disco music made it into the film, the companion running joke of him poking at her collection of seventies TV shows was left out (apart from a couple of Happy Days references) during to the difficulty of licensing all the referenced shows.
  • Throw It In: Donald Glover tripping and falling while he gets up for coffee was a genuine mistake on his part. Ridley Scott decided to leave it in.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Irrfan Khan was the studio's first choice to play Venkat Kapoor but had to turn it down due to previous engagements with Bollywood projects.
    • Cate Blanchett was Ridley Scott's original choice for the role of Commander Lewis, but she couldn't take it due to a scheduling conflict.