The Martian crafts people echoed the same thing: it was an inside-out journey centered around Matt Damon’s engaging astronaut/botanist, who’s in peril but who never loses his optimism or humor. Therefore, it became a balancing act between the epic and the intimate.
Production designer Arthur Max called it “NASA-meets-2001: A Space Odyssey.” And he faithfully followed NASA’s design philosophy: modular with interconnecting segments, a gravity wheel that creates artificial gravity in rotation, and powered by an ion plasma nuclear propulsion engine.
The six solar array wings (SAWs) were integral to both the look and design of the Hermes, and were a CG complication for Framestore. Made of various layers of materials—silicone, plastics and metals—the panels are continuously reflecting and refracting light.
The Mars surface, meanwhile, was handled by MPC, which utilized the NASA archive material and then matched the shooting location in Wadi Rum in Jordan. A key component was selectively grading the sky and landscape from blue to the bronze and butterscotch that Scott preferred. This was achieved with the help of a tool (EarthToMars) created by Lev Kolobov that removed the blue skyline.
Of course, this overlapped with the work of cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, who shot on location in Wadi Rum as well as on stages in Budapest. For him, The Martian was actually three movies in one: the “Robinson Crusoe on Mars” survival story, the NASA/JPL procedural and the final rescue.
“The score starts out quite intimate and personal—one man against the planet—and then comes on strong in the middle and toward the end,” added composer Harry Gregson-Williams.
Throughout the movie, in fact, there are connections between Damon and the environment on Mars and with humanity on Earth. There’s also a spiritual aspect as well: it’s about solving problems that seem insurmountable, according to editor Pietro Scalia.
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