Next month, I’ll be chatting with Drew Goddard, screenwriter of The Martian, for a Writers Guild Foundation event.
One of the things I want to talk about is how cleverly The Martian sets expectations and then defeats them in surprising ways. The film is marketed as a story of survival and ingenuity, but on a screenwriting level it’s a series of carefully-structured hopes denied.
As The Bitter Script Reader points out:
A good rule of thumb in film is that if we’re explained a plan in painstaking detail, […] things will not go to plan. The way things NEED to happen is laid out for us so that when we’re in the thick of it, we’ll have that “oh shit!” reaction as things come apart.
On today’s Scriptnotes, Craig and I talk about on why this kind of constant denial engine — and the life-or-death stakes it helps feed — makes The Martian a movie idea rather than a TV idea. It’s a journey this character can only take once. And it’s Goddard and Scott’s terrific execution that makes it such an enjoyable ride.
If you want to join me for the conversation with Goddard, tickets are available now.