Angst? What Angst?: Mark Watney goes though an ordeal that would leave an ordinary person on the ground in a fetal position. Him? He notes in his daily log that it's really lonely on Mars and he's probably going to die, then he keeps on trucking. He's a highly-trained astronaut, but still...
Hilarious in Hindsight: Mark compares the stripped-down MAV to "launching me to space in a convertible". In February 2018, SpaceX launched an actual convertible, a Tesla Roadster, into a solar orbit for the maiden launch of their Falcon Heavy rocket.
Iron Woobie: In spite of all of the problems that keep getting in his way, Mark Watney absolutely refuses to let the Red Planet kill him.
Remember those old math questions you had in algebra class? Where water is entering a container at a certain rate and leaving at a different rate and you need to figure out when it'll be empty? Well, that concept is critical to the "Mark Watney doesn't die" project I'm working on.
Franchise Original Sin: Andy Weir's follow-up novel Artemis features much more of characters talking with each other, which in The Martian was mostly limited to dry science talk. Many critics found it comes off as horribly stilted and tin-eared, and suspected Weir deliberately came up with a story that would minimize this area he has trouble with for his first book.
Some saw this with director Ridley Scott being passed over for a Best Director nomination at the Oscars. If it helps soften the blow, he did receive a nomination for Best Picture anyway by acting as a producer for the film.
To a lesser extent, many feel that Matt Damon should have won Best Actor. It's also partly due to Leonardo Di Caprio winning for The Revenant — which caused a slight backlash of fans who wished he would have been recognised for a different role.
A lot of people (both critics and moviegoers) feel that this should have easily won for Best Visual Effects. Not that Ex Machina's effects aren't also stellar, but most people felt that The Martian had more going for it.
There's more than a few debates on which is better — this or Interstellar given they're both sci-fi films starring Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain.
Another debate has ensued with Gravity, another film about an astronaut trying to survive near impossible odds.
It's also not uncommon to hear people compare this movie to The Revenant, another movie about a person left in an inhospitable environment, forging their way to survival. Though both do so on very different terms, The Martian being more optimistic and hopeful, while The Revenant is more pessimistic and brutal. Also, while The Revenant relies on its direction and cinematography to relay its story, The Martian focuses more on its writing and acting.
Sebastian Stan and Kate Mara's characters getting married in the ending becomes this knowing that they have played characters with the same surname before: Bucky and Zoe Barnes. With the help of a third, namely Troy. And all three of those roles are their respective actors' most well-known.
Did anyone notice that Luis was part of the crew too?
There's also the fact that Mark references Iron Man when he and his team are figuring out how to get him back on the ship. Although he wouldn't meet Tony Stark, Matt Damon would later make his MCU debut where he would play as an actor for Loki in Thor: Ragnarok.
Then Vincent and Bruce went on to become sorcerers.
In the Japanese dub of the film, Watney is voiced by Nobutoshi Canna, who previously voiced Basara Nekki, a rock singer who wants everyone in the space to listen to his songs. In this film, he voices an astronaut stranded in Mars having to listen other people's songs, and that music turns to be disco, of all things.
During the Ares 3 farewell segment, it's implied that the Chicago Cubs still haven't won the World Series as of 2035. If only the filmmakers waited another year...
Just after Mark got left behind on Mars, still relatively early in the film, he discovered that he has been impaled by a metal rod from the antenna, and was forced to do a self-surgery, which is shown in very graphic detail. Mark's agonized screams after each painful procedure don't help matters. The rest of the movie is a cakewalk compared to this one scene. He perfectly summed it up after he finished:
The airlock scene. Proof that, despite all our technological advances and safety features, space travel is still very, very, very dangerous.
Sci Fi Ghetto: Despite the positive critical reviews and commercial success, the film still fell headlong into this. It was pigeonholed into the 'Musical or Comedy' categories at the Golden Globes, and Ridley Scott even raised his eyebrows and said "comedy?" as he accepted the award. While the film is fairly light-hearted, it was marketed as a drama.
There were a few complaints about Lewis being the one to pull Mark back in when it was Beck who did it in the book, especially since the change turns him into The Generic Guy. Not only that, but as anyone with any military experience can tell you, the commanding officer is almost never the one to put themselves in danger; not due to cowardice, but because they are the commanding officer and are tasked with seeing whatever mission they're on succeed.
The film also omits what some consider to be the most intense portion of the book where Watney loses contact with NASA after shorting out Pathfinder and then must make the journey to the Ares IV site with no support all while avoiding a massive storm that threatens to deprive him of solar power. In the film, the entire scenario is replaced with a humorous montage of Watney prepping the rover and travelling with no obstacles. Somewhat justified due to the film's time constraints.
Trailer Joke Decay: "In your face, Neil Armstrong" was probably funny the first two times you heard it. But it was in every trailer.
Unfortunate Implications: The film has been criticized for not casting Asian actors, specifically for turning Indian Venkat Kapoor into a black British man, and for making Mindy Park Caucasian rather than Korean-American (Park being a common surname for both ethnicities, many readers assumed she was Asian even though she's never given any physical description, and Weir said in interviews that he thought of her that way in the book). This became a bad one-two punch for Ridley Scott in this area, given the controversy attached to his previous film Exodus: Gods and Kings.
Visual Effects of Awesome: A given, considering the director. Special mention must be given to the sequences in space, which brings to mind the aforementioned Gravity.
The film has a fairly diverse cast with some very talented actors of color like Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover and Michael Peña. Some critics have speculated that this might have been in response to the intense backlash Exodus received over its Monochrome Casting and "whitewashing".
Woolseyism: "I'm going to have to science the shit out of this." isn't directly translatable into several other languages, so the translators reworked the line:
In the French translation: "I'll have to shit out a lot of science to get out of this." ("Je vais devoir en chier, de la science, pour m'en sortir.")
In the Russian translation: "Only science can pull me out of this shit."