CHICAGO (Christian Examiner) -- Darwinian evolution tells us that we are merely advanced forms of animals, and that if it weren't for a little "luck" along the way, we would be nothing more than chimpanzees.
That came to mind about halfway through the new science fiction film "The Martian," which hits theaters this weekend and tells of a NASA astronaut who is presumed dead and gets stranded on Mars during a major storm, and then must learn to grow food in an inhospitable climate simply to survive.
When NASA officials learn he is alive, they and the entire world – even the Chinese – pull together to rescue him. And people across the globe celebrate.
"The Martian" is far from being a film for the entire family, but it does espouse a biblical worldview from beginning to end. It's impossible, for instance, to watch this entertaining film and walk away thinking we are nothing more than an advanced part of the animal kingdom. Animals eat one another. People spend billions of dollars to travel 140 million miles across space to rescue one lonely, helpless soul.
Why would we launch such a costly mission when there are already 7 billion people – 7 billion people! – on the planet? It's for the same reason that we rescue the sailor in the middle of the Atlantic or the miner stuck hundreds of feet below ground. Here's why we do it: It's because we're made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), because we are unique, and because each life is precious and worth rescuing. It's a biblical truth that even non-Christians affirm without realizing it. We're not chickens in a slaughterhouse or ants on a middle school sidewalk, being squashed by heartless sixth-grade boys. Humans are the pinnacle of God's creation and we know right from wrong.
But it's not simply humans that are unique -- our planet is, too. In "The Martian," astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) discovers quickly how different Earth is from Mars when he tries growing vegetables. A botanist, Watney sets up a seemingly genius way to grow potatoes, building a greenhouse and then using his own excrement to help make fertilizer.
And, for a while, it works, as each day he enjoys potatoes dipped in ketchup (brought from Earth). Yet another major storm – not unlike the one that nearly killed him – destroys his greenhouse and all of his crop. The man who had jokingly proclaimed that "Mars will come to fear my botany powers" is humbled and desperate.
The average temperature on Mars is -69 Fahrenheit. If you walked on Mars without a space suit, you'd die within minutes -- but not from the cold. You'd die from the low pressure, and your skin and organs would rupture. What about Venus, our "sister planet" that is closer to the Sun? It's an average of 864 degrees there; you'd fry like an egg. God, you see, placed Earth exactly where it is, not too far from the sun but not too close, simply to sustain life. And "The Martian" – perhaps not intentionally – affirms this fact loudly.
"The Martian" is a visually captivating movie, showcasing the beauty of God's creation in a way we've never seen on the big screen – the mountains, valleys and sand dunes of Mars, all bearing that magnificent Martian red.
Damon also is (not surprisingly) stellar in his role.
"The Martian" is light on explicit religious moments but does contain one nice one when Damon's character, needing wood to burn for a life-sustaining experiment, decides to use a crewmate's wooden crucifix.
"I figure you're fine with this considering the present situation," he says to the figure, presumably talking to Jesus. "I'm counting on You."
Alas, though, I can't recommend this film for families – at least not ones with young children. It contains about 30 instances of coarse language, including at least two f-words, 10 s-words, and more than five instances of God's name being abused. It also contains an out-of-the-blue and unnecessary scene with Damon's character walking out of the shower, fully nude. (We see him from the backside.)
That's too bad, because "The Martian" has just about everything parents and kids want in a film: action, humor, heroics and a happy ending – and it's all set in space. I'd love for my 7-year-old son to see Mars, albeit a CGI version, on the big screen. But we'll have to settle for (real-world) NASA photos.
The Martian is rate PG-13.
Entertainment rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Family friendly rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Post-movie discussion topics: is manned space exploration needed?; the value of life; sacrificing your life for another life; the beauty of God's creation.
Michael Foust has covered the film industry for more than a decade. Visit his website, MichaelFoust.com