The Martian — ARES: live | Bring Him Home

Information elements and project structure

The world is waiting for Mark (22 September 2015) — Retained dead during the early evacuation of the Ares III mission, Watney managed to survive and contact NASA. After the incredible revelation, the whole world mobilizes in support of Watney, requesting a recovery mission to bring him home.

1. Introduction

This document proposes an analysis of Ares: live | Bring Him Home (1:28), promotional video of The Martian (R. Scott, 2015).
The research considers the product and its related materials by studying the creative choices, the informative properties, the modalities of visual representation and promotion.

Introductory note: The Martian (Ridley Scott, 2015) is set in 2035–36. During the Ares III mission to Mars, astronaut Mark Watney is mistakenly considered dead during a heavy storm, and abandoned by his crew. But Watney survives and wakes up alone on the hostile planet. With few supplies available, Watney must use ingenuity, intelligence and a spirit of survival to find a way to report to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to try to bring to program a bold — if not impossible — rescue mission. As these stories of incredible courage evolve, the world unites to support Watney’s return.[1]

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2. Analysis

2.1. The Ares: live channel
Conceived as the official YouTube channel dedicated to its space program, Ares: live hosts 6 promotional videos interconnected with the film story of The Martian, published between June and October 2015.

The video series includes:

  1. Farewell
    7 June 2015
    On board the Hermes space station, astronaut Mark Watney personally records a live video to introduce the crewmembers a few hours before leaving the Earth’s orbit for Mars.
  2. The Right Stuff
    4 August, 2015
    During preparation for the Ares III mission, the crewmembers are interviewed by a NASA psychologist after a 10-day isolation period.
  3. Our Greatest Adventure
    27 August 2015
    The American astrophysicist Neil deGrass Tyson presents a brief fictional
    documentary set in 2035, illustrating the main features of the Ares III mission.
  4. Leave Your Mark
    9 September 2015
    Astronaut Mark Watney is filmed during the intense athletic training phase prior to the Ares III mission, promoting Under Armour’s technical sports apparel.
  5. Bring Him Home
    22 September 2015
    The world population mobilizes in a solidarity campaign requesting to bring Mark Watney home through a recovery mission.
  6. Ares 3: Chem Cam
    8 October, 2015
    Having succeeded in remaining alive on Mars, Mark Watney films himself on video inside the housing unit (HAB) intent on performing some scientific experiments planned during the Ares III mission, commenting on his condition and making fun of the other crew members.
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Visualization and synthesis of Ares: live promotional materials in order of publication (June-October 2015) and in narrative order (2034–2035/2036)
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“I’ve always thought about how much more we can learn, if we just dare to go further.”[2]

2.1.1. Bring Him Home
22 September 2015

Waiting for the recovery mission to save Watney[3], the video Bring Him Home (1:28) documents the global mobilizations and international solidarity demonstrations for the missing astronaut, who has become a hero and a symbol of courage for all of humanity. Combining NASA fictional archive material with mixed sources from television broadcasters and channels on the Net, the video simulates an advertisement by raising awareness of the campaign to bring Mark Watney back to Earth, making the drama parallel to the film story plausible.

People around the world are rallying behind one simple, endearing notion: bring him home. We have seen hundreds of messages of support of this brave astronaut. […] NASA is doing everything they can to figure out how to save him.”[4]

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Bring Him Home: visual development synthesis — 1) In a fictional archive video, Watney prepares to leave for Mars (the scene looks like a true extract from Leave Your Mark); 2) Watney’s story gets incredible media visibility, summarized also in the events that took place in Paris, London, Hong Kong, Chicago, China and Latin America; 3) A crowd of people demonstrates by showing their phones with the phrase “Bring Him Home”; 4) Appeal sentence (The world is waiting, Mark) + hypertextual keyword (#BringHimHome) + Ares logo. Note: the reading order is lateral, starting from the top left. The number of frames shown does not represent the exact visual development of the video.

Main communicative properties:

  • Explores narrative situations parallel to the primary story and deepens the
    media and cultural context of the fictional world, emphasizing the narrative priority issue of the story: Watney’s rescue.
  • Encourages the use of the hypertextual keyword #BringHimHome to search for promotional information, standardizing sharing and research practices.[5]
  • Simulates an official advertisement for civic education focused on humanitarian issues (solidarity, empathy, transnational unity, participation) by stimulating an emotional reaction to shared issues.
  • Reproduces graphic interfaces of social platforms (Tumblr and Instagram) imagining the plausible communicative applications and related cultural phenomena tied to Watney’s rescue.
  • It shows recognizable geographical spaces (London, Beijing, Hong Kong[6]); space agencies (NASA, China National Space Administration), television stations (CNN, present in The Martian also with the fictional daily in-depth program entitled The Mark Watney Report), social platforms, editorial and commercial products within the fictional world (flyers, clothing[7], manifesto with Watney, newspapers and magazines[8]) potentially replicable, shareable on the Internet, or purchasable.

See the complete analysis of the Ares: live promotional campaign.

Notes List

[1] Official description on Youtube. The exclusive world premiere of The Martian was hosted during the Toronto Film Festival (10–11 September 2015). See https://goo.gl/MNHGCk https://goo.gl/VcZdsS

[2] The opening sentence pronounced by Mark Watney (in a hypothetical interview) underscores the courage of the astronaut.

[3] Watney’s survival and rescue are the central issues already revealed by the official promos (8 June; 19 August 2015).

[4] The first promotional phrase “Bring Him Home” is entered as a predominant textual element also in the official poster of The Martian. https://goo.gl/wGh7RF

[5] The simulated shot shows the search results in Tumblr related to #BringHimHome, shown at the top left as a suggestion (0:17). On Instagram (0:48), the plausible official NASA profile presents the profile photo with Watney and publishes a photograph of a child (probably Mexican or South American) intent on demonstrating.

[6] Chicago (Watney’s hometown) is also briefly visible. Paris is shown in an image of the French capital visible on the simulated Tumblr page (0:17) and evoked by a journalist’s voice and a wall of solidarity messages written in French (0:19).

[7] The t-shirt briefly visible in the video is a reference to the models that can be purchased on Under Armour’s official website. See https://goo.gl/NZyWZe

[8] The illustrated poster of Watney (0: 28–30) and the word Hope (0: 10–13) may also allude to Shepard Fairey’s famous manifesto dedicated to President Barack Obama during the US election campaign (2008). Visible names and titles of editorial products (0:14–16): Alt4: (image of Watney) The Watney Issue, top left, shows two separate photographs where Teddy Sanders, director of NASA, is recognizable; (The I)nformer: How will they bring him home? ; Minute: (the logo is written in Bourgeois, the same typeface
used for The Martian logo) Sanders takes on space disaster; GlobalNews: bravest man in the galaxy. Will Mark Watney be lost forever? Another failure for Teddy Sanders; Gild: Exclusive investigation. He’s alive. Find out what Nasa plan to (-). Annie Montrose gives her side of the story. Mark’s Mars training. Q: (image of Watney).

Study method and sources
This document is the result of a compilation process created with scientific and accessibility requirements. Special care has therefore been devoted to coherently structuring the texts and analysis sections, to selecting functional visual devices, and to providing verified information by correctly citing sources of documentation, with the final objective of sharing useful material for the purposes of study, criticism and information.
References to all the sources consulted have been inserted using numbers in square brackets [] and reported in the references at the conclusion, with the relative explanatory notes.

Legal notice
The iconographic material, the trademarks (registered or unregistered) and all the information reported as being in any case protected belong to the respective owners. The internal use of protected material responds exclusively to a scientific and cultural intent.

The author releases the document through the license:

  • Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0.
    This allows third parties to share the published material indicating the origin, respecting the same type of original license and prohibiting the use for commercial purposes.

Contacts
Humenhoid is a creative research unit specialized in immersive entertainment and transmedia storytelling, with focus on cinema, tv series, and video games.

For information, communications or proposals for collaboration write to
Enrico Granzotto | e@humenhoid.com | Humenhoid.com

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    A comprehensive case study on information management and narrative design in the Alien (R. Scott, 1979) and Prometheus (R. Scott, 2012) interconnected franchises.
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I’m a creative research unit specialized in immersive entertainment and transmedia storytelling with focus on cinema, tv series, and videogames | humenhoid.com

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