I’d never heard of Andy Weir’s novel The Martian until the first trailer for director Ridley Scott’s movie adaptation surprised the internet last week. I had no idea what to expect, and the name “Ridley Scott” told me things could go either way. Fortunately what I saw seemed somewhat different enough from Interstellar, Contact, Armageddon, and all those ’90s Martian disaster films (Mission to Mars, Red Planet, Total Recall, Mars Attacks!) that I considered myself somewhat impressed and a bit hopeful that some of the reviews end with hyperbole such as “Ridley Scott’s boldest vision of the future since Alien and Blade Runner!” or “Isn’t it time we forgave him for The Counselor?”.
That was my first thought. My second thought regarding this trailer in which Matt Damon, super-genius, defies expectations and accomplishes nigh-impossible doctorate-level feats under improbable circumstances while everyone else stands back and watches in befuddlement…my second thought is we’re about to see the long-awaited sequel Will Hunting, Good King of NASA. I don’t think I’m complaining, though. In fact, maybe more movie characters should buy tickets to go see the Final Frontier up close and rake in a few extra hundred billion bucks worldwide. Or on an interplanetary scale, even.
Kicking familiar faces off-planet isn’t a new marketing concept. The horror sequels Jason X and Leprechaun in Space proved it could be done if dignity wasn’t an issue. Syfy has carved out a niche for zero-budget filmmakers eager to set any concept in space. I don’t keep track of them, but I assume we already have, say, a Lord of Saturn’s Rings space-fantasy trilogy out there and in the DVD bargain bin at Walmart.
In the more dignified, not-too-distant future we already have Avengers in Space, a.k.a. the Infinity War two-parter, on Marvel’s Phase 3 schedule, though August’s Fantastic Four might beat them to that finish line. Sure, the FF trailer refers to interdimensional travel rather than spaceflight, but I’d buy into that charade more readily if this alleged other dimension didn’t look like more space.
Sooner or later, Hollywood will send more characters you really care about into space, into the great beyond where they were never meant to be, but you’ll check your anti-space-bandwagon outrage when all those overseas box office returns start pouring in for some of these super awesome science-happy sequel ideas:
Jurassic Planet: Okay, so we’ve established an island can’t contain them. What if we grow new gargantuan killer dinosaurs on another planet instead of here? And then charge admission only to those billionaires who can afford their own security teams and spaceflight companies — e.g., Elon Musk, Richard Branson, President Trump. How could it possibly go wrong? On a related note, InGen’s newest crop of bioengineers have bred an ultra-spinosaurus with a 200 IQ, laser cannons for hands, and a masters’ degree in aeronautics, because their rich-tourist focus groups said that would be so COOL.
Mad Max: Rage-Filled Hyperspace Bypass: Humans leave Earth to search for resources. Endless alien demolition derby scenes ensue. Imagine the total chaos of your favorite space skirmish — the end of Serenity, a random Star Wars dogfight, whatever — but imagine it filled with louder, wilder, impossibly expensive spaceship crashes filmed live with actual spaceships manned by stuntmen given years of certified astronaut training, all practical effects and not one millisecond of CG. Let me repeat that bulletproof plot: ACTUAL SPACESHIPS CRASHING. Starring Charlize Theron as Furiosa, of course, plus a cameo after the end credits by an extra playing Mad Max. If George Miller launched a Kickstarter campaign for this, I bet he’d reach his trillion-dollar funding goal in about an hour.
The Fast, the Furious, and the Far, Far Away: Similar to Mad Max: RFHB but with three times the budget and lots more dancing girls.
Paranormal Activity in Space: A single camera stares at a night sky for two hours. Then a tiny UFO streaks across the screen. Its little green pilot yells, “BOO.” It exits. Forty minutes later, credits roll. The film makes $200 million minimum.
Disney’s Treasure Planet: Because sooner or later every Disney animated film will be upconverted into a live-action, shot-for-shot remake. Well, maybe not Mars Needs Moms.
Pitch Perfect: Party in the Milky Way: More singing and more PG-13 yuks, all for a pre-approving audience too enraptured to ask exactly how anyone can hear a cappella Top-40 covers in a vacuum.
Paul Blart, Space Cop: The paycheck writes itself, pretty much like the first two.
And that’s setting aside other possibilities that so far exist in my head in name only: Journey from the Planet of the Apes, American Star Sniper, 21 Jump Quadrant, Batman vs. Green Lantern: Eclipse of Infinity, Django Unbound, Cosmic Spider-Man, Space Pirates of the Caribbean…
If you haven’t seen it, enclosed below is the first trailer for The Martian on YouTube, starring all the stars, from the director of Alien, Blade Runner, and several bad movies that might’ve been better off in space. Picture it: Space Exodus: Sun Gods and Moon Kings! Except hopefully they don’t have white people playing all the goodly astronauts and nonwhites playing all the corrupt aliens.