1536: The Martian

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The Martian
I have never seen a work of fiction so perfectly capture the out-of-nowhere shock of discovering that you've just bricked something important because you didn't pay enough attention to a loose wire.
Title text: I have never seen a work of fiction so perfectly capture the out-of-nowhere shock of discovering that you've just bricked something important because you didn't pay enough attention to a loose wire.


Cueball is very excited about seeing that the trailer for The Martian is finally released, because he really liked the book. Cueball most likely represents Randall himself in this comic.

The Martian is a 2015 film based on a 2011 science fiction novel of the same name by Andy Weir. The plot involves an astronaut who's accidentally left on Mars when the rest of his crew has to leave during a disaster. The central plot of the novel involves the protagonist having to improvise ways to survive in such an inhospitable environment until a rescue mission can be mounted.

White Hat is apparently unfamiliar with the book, and Cueball explains it by referencing a scene from another movie. Apollo 13 is a film about an actual event in which a mission to the moon had to be aborted when the ship was damaged en route. In the referenced scene, NASA personnel had to quickly develop a plan to build an improvised adapter for a carbon dioxide scrubber, using only those materials available on the spacecraft. This task was critical to the astronauts' survival, if they had failed, the air in the ship would have soon become unbreathable.

Cueball apparently particularly enjoyed that scene, and suggests that this kind of on-the-fly problem solving in order to survive is the central theme of The Martian, rather than being only a single scene.

In the final panel, White Hat wonders how such a plot was made into a big-budget film starring Matt Damon. Matt Damon is a high-profile star, known for action films like the Bourne series. Blockbuster films with such stars are usually designed to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, to maximize ticket sales, and therefore justify their large budgets. The kind of cerebral, science-heavy problem solving at the core of The Martian tends to appeal to a smaller, nerdier demographic. Cueball appears similarly surprised that the film was made in the first place, but is happy that it was.

On the day the movie was released in the US, Randall went to see it and released this comic about it: 1585: Similarities.

In 2561: Moonfall a similar discussion of an upcoming movie is made for Moonfall. But in that case it is the scientific inaccuracy that is the subject, and the huge explosion that makes it worth seeing anyway... maybe?

Spoiler alert:
The title text references a particular event in The Martian's story: The protagonist managed to establish communications with Earth by repurposing the Pathfinder space probe that NASA landed on Mars in 1997. While working on another piece of equipment, he accidentally subjects the probe to an electrical short-circuit, destroying its electronics and "bricking" it. "Bricking" is a term in consumer electronics which essentially means to cause an electronic device to become non-functional and essentially no more useful than a "brick". An unexpected "bricking" can be very surprising, and in a case where the item is critical, could be devastating. This bricking scene from the book was left out of the movie.


[Cueball is sitting at a desk using a computer and White Hat walks in.]
Cueball: Ooh, trailer for The Martian!
White Hat: What's that?
Cueball: Movie of a book I liked.
White Hat: Should I read it?
[Cueball pivots on chair and turns away from computer to face White Hat.]
Cueball: Depends. You know the scene in Apollo 13 where the guy says "we have to figure out how to connect this thing to this thing using this table full of parts or the astronauts will all die?
White Hat: Yeah?
[Cueball pivots on chair again and resumes using computer while talking. White Hat looks at his smart phone.]
Cueball: The Martian is for people who wish the whole movie had just been more of that scene.
White Hat: How on earth did that become a big-budget thing with Matt Damon?
Cueball: No idea, but I'm so excited.


In a video interview by Adam Savage with Andy Weir the author of The Martian says that his goal was to make the whole book like the mentioned scene from Apollo 13 - exactly what the comic is saying. The video was posted on YouTube the day after the xkcd comic.

In the end, The Martian likely didn't disappoint the big-budget movie makers, grossing more than $630 million against a budget of $108 million.

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I'm too ẞ qwertz (talk) 05:46, 10 June 2015 (UTC)

It's clearly a trap. Matt Damon will try to kill them. 11:46, 10 June 2015 (UTC)

I've found the scene from Apollo 13 Cueball is referencing: [[1]] Dahooz (talk) 12:39, 10 June 2015 (UTC)

Thanks was just asking for this in the incomplete mark. Then I noticed you had posted the link. It is now part of the explain. And it is also a great explanation of that the scene by TheHYPO. Seems complete to me now. --Kynde (talk) 19:04, 10 June 2015 (UTC)

The 'official' explanation says that "...the plot is ­a cross between Apollo 13 (but on Mars) and Robinson Crusoe."  So is this a remake of — or have anything else in common with — the cheesy 1964 sci-fi classic "Robinson Crusoe on Mars"? RAGBRAIvet (talk) 17:03, 10 June 2015 (UTC)

Looking at the synopsis on both, the only difference I see is that the old one has a monkey. I didn't like the movie knowing Matt Damon was in it. Now it is just worse. 02:52, 11 June 2015 (UTC)BK201

If memory serves, the Apollo 13 CO2 canister fix included some duct tape. 23:20, 11 June 2015 (UTC)

That seems entirely logical. I would think that duct tape is something any space journey should include. -Pennpenn 04:37, 12 June 2015 (UTC)
And a towel! 11:43, 13 June 2015 (UTC)
Also the cover torn off the flight manual. 13:29, 12 June 2015 (UTC)
I just finished reading the book. Watney raves about duct tape after talking about how NASA can spend money improving everything except duct tape. He manages to fix air leaks and stuff with it. tspilk (talk) 15:06, 12 June 2015 (UTC)
There is an improvement over duct tape, it's gaffer tape. Always carry them both and engage in a lengthy technical discussion when people assume they are the same thing. Ralfoide (talk) 16:32, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
It's funny that duct tape has so many uses that it's surprising when someone actually uses it to repair a duct. Despairbear (talk) 01:56, 5 August 2015 (UTC)

Just saw the movie, and it is really great. Now I think I have to put the book on my x-mas wish list ;-) --Kynde (talk) 19:53, 10 October 2015 (UTC)

I was on the phone with my mother the other day, and mentioned this strip to her. She said that scene was her favorite scene out of every movie she's ever seen. Will X (talk) 02:57, 5 February 2016 (UTC)