Mark Watney wonders about Aquaman being able to control whales (whales are mammals, not fish), played Dungeons & Dragons while in school, and when asked to pose for a photograph, decides to do so as The Fonz.
Mindy Park. Her glasses, her intelligence about latitude and longitude even the scene when Vincent asked Mindy about the context of Mark Watney's response of "Are you fucking kidding me?".
Zhu Tao, the Chinese scientist who comes up with the idea that can save Watney despite the personal cost of it.
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.
Crazy Awesome: Most of what Mark, the Ares III crew, and the people at NASA do over the course of the book qualify for this trope, but the craziest of them all was the first proposed plan to rescue Mark: The Ares IV crew, when they reached Mars, would land their Mars Descent Vehicle (MDV) near Mark's hab, pick him up, and then use the MDV for an overland flight to the Ares IV landing site 3,200km away. Rockets used for overland flights on Earth are more commonly known as missiles, which have a tendency of, y'know, exploding when 'landing', and these maniacs wanted to use one like they were picking Mark up from daycare. Teddy vetoes this plan immediately (partly due to the insanity, partly because Mark would need to survive 4 years for Ares IV to reach him), which bums out the Ares IV astronauts and JPL techies.
Fandom Rivalry: Pretty much encouraged in the "Questions and Topics for Discussion" at the end of the book.
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.
At one point Venkat promises another employee some Star Wars merchandise out of gratitude for a breakthrough and the guy says he doesn't want anything that isn't from the original trilogy, to which Venkat says "of course." This was just a couple of years before the announcement of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, which proved even more alienating to fans of the original movies than the prequel trilogy.
When Mark is rescued, he says: "If this were a movie, everyone would have been in the airlock, and there would have been high fives all around." Guess what happened in the movie?
The reason the crew isn't there to welcome him is because they have stuff to do as they slingshot around Mars. Also, Mark stinks to high heaven, so they don't want to be near him until he gets cleaned up. Both are ignored in the film.
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 (especially when one considers the differences in their respective budgets, which partially explains the Academy's decision), 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.
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.
Moviegoers often assume the "China saves the day by offering their unsolicited assistance" was original to the movie to pander to the powerful Chinese market. Nope, it was in the book.
In the book, while NASA's Chinese counterparts do offer their booster out of altruism when they had no reason to, they do smooth things over with their government by asking for a taikonaut in a future Ares mission in exchange, and mentioning that the move allows China to show up the Americans on the international stage.
An example of what was thought to be Actor Allusion is when the character Dr. Beck compares catching the MAV at a relative velocity of 10 m/s to jumping onto a moving train. That line was actually in the book. That the movie cast Sebastian Stan, who is best known for playing Bucky Barnes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe where he jumped onto a moving train and subsequently fell off said train, was completely coincidental.
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.
The crew's talks with their families being cut so short (and the omission of the suspenseful I'm a Humanitarian scenario they have to let one of them survive in the event the supply intercept fails) can be disappointing.
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: A single open letter from the "Media Action Network for Asian-Americans" criticized the film for it's casting of Mindy Park and Vincent Kapoor. It takes specific issue that Venkat/Vincent Kapoor was an Asian-Indian character who is a Hindu in the book yet embodied by black actor Chiwetel Ejiofor and renamed Vincent. It also complains that Mindy Park is Caucasian rather than Korean-American (which is how Weir envisioned her even though her ethnicity is never defined in the book). Oddly, the letter completely ignores that the movie featured Benedict Wong playing Bruce NG or Eddy Ko and Chen Shu playing the CNSA executives.
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."