The Martian

I dropped the ball on this one. I often criticize Hollywood for not being willing to make genuine, hard science fiction movies anymore, and I begroan the continued bastardization of my beloved Star Trek and the dumbed down action flicks that Hollywood dared to put the "Star Trek" title on. The studios say that science fiction don't make enough money. Apologists say that casual audiences are too dumb and impatient to sit through any kind of slow-developing, cerebral movie. Ironically enough (despite my own frequent cynicism) I think both these apologetics are too cynical and don't give audiences enough credit. I firmly believe that if the studios make a good movie, the audiences will go see it, especially if it's properly marketed.

So when a thoughtful, science fiction movie like The Martian comes out, I try to make a point of spending my money to see it in order to show my support for the continued development of the genre. I made a point of seeing Gravity, despite that movie appearing to be little more than space destruction porn and iMax eye candy. I also made sure that I saw last year's Interstellar. And both of the Planet of the Apes reboots have been surprisingly excellent. Unfortunately, I lost track of the release date of The Martian and missed seeing it on opening weekend (one of Hollywood's biggest metrics of a movie's success). I also wasn't able to see it the week after, or the week after that due to my weekends being consistently busy. It was over a month before I finally put my foot down and said "I'm seeing this movie now! No more delay!". And then I went and saw it twice in that same weekend.

Fortunately, the rest of the country vindicated me by heaping dump trucks full of praise on the movie and putting their butts in the theater seats to keep The Martian at the number 1 spot in the box office for almost the entire month of October (only briefly falling to number 2 for one week behind Goosebumps - really?). It finally took an upteenth sequel to a beloved franchise to topple The Martian when Spectre (which I also saw this weekend) held the top spot for two weeks in a row. The movie itself is earning Oscar buzz, and Matt Damon seems to be the current favorite for "Best Actor". So there you have it, Hollywood: make a good sci-fi movie, and they will come, and they will love it.

The Martian - stranded on Mars
Matt Damon's character is charming and easily has the audience rooting for him against all odds.

And the movie is absolutely fantastic! It's ambitions are closer to Apollo 13 than to 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's a very believable, down-to-earth, science fiction film, the events of which feel like they could happen tomorrow. Matt Damon's performance is absolutely charming as a NASA astronaut stranded on Mars and presumed dead when his team is forced to evac due to a violent sandstorm...

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Civilization V - Pocatello of Shoshone

Only a few more civs to go in my series of strategy posts about Brave New World's new civilizations. Next up is the land-snatching Shoshone lead by Chief Pocatello.

The Shoshone are a group of native Americans that originated in the rocky regions of western North America (now Nevada and Utah). Around the same time as European colonists began settling on the east coast, the Shoshone began expanding eastward, which brought them into conflict with other plains indians such as the Blackfoot, Crow, Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho. Some Shoshone who migrated into Texas and Oklahoma would break off into their own tribe: Comanche, who would become expert horsemen. The Shoshone began to come into conflict with the United States in the late nineteenth century due to the U.S.'s westward expansion, leading to a massacre of as many as 500 Shoshone at a winter encampment at Bear River in 1863. Shoshone culture has survived on reservations to this day, and in 2008, began working with Utah and Idaho state leaders to create a memorial to the Bear River Massacre. At its height, the Shoshone nation was composed of many tribes that occupied vast territory, extending from modern-day Montana all the way through Nevada; and their offshoot tribe, the Comanche, exhibited strong control of Texas and Oklahoma.

Civilization V: Brave New World - Pocatello

As westward immigration lead to conflict between the Shoshone and United States, Chief Pocatello (or, Tondzaosha) lead his tribe in raids and attacks against settlers in Idaho along the Oregon trail. He was feared and respected by his enemies, and Brigham Young (leader of the Mormons) attempted to offer terms of appeasement to the Shoshone in order to stop the attacks. Instead, the United States army arrived and destroyed any chances of a peaceful solution. Despite the overwhelming might of the U.S. army, Pocatello avoided the total massacre of his people and eventually negotiated the Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868, which granted the Shoshone a permanent reservation at Fort Hall near the Snake River in exchange for annual compensation from the United States (which the United States rarely honored in full). Due to this agreement, the Shoshone cultural identity survives to this day, and the city of Pocatello in Idaho is named in his honor.

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