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#MovieMonday: The Martian Production Design

By Anton Adianto

The Martian was nominated for a number of categories at the 88th Academy Awards, one of them being Best Production Design. Done by Arthur Max (Prometheus, American Gangster and Gladiator), The Martian production design is a realistic depiction of the arid planet Mars that’s notorious for intense dust storms.

The movie is a live adaptation of an Andy Weir novel about one man’s thrilling survival story on Mars. When the book was first published in 2011, NASA invited the author to tour the Johnson Space Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Weir then suggested that NASA collaborate with director Ridley Scott in the making of the film. The space agency naturally became a key consultant and advisor. Given the film had to be NASA-approved, the pressure to be scientifically accurate was palpable.

The principal photography on The Martian began in November 2014 in Budapest. This film used Korda’s Stage 6, one of the largest soundstages in the world, to build around 20 sets. The team had initially plan to film in the Australian Outback but they decided filming indoors would provide them with more control over the setting. Although, some sequences were filmed in UNESCO World Heritage Site Wadi Rum in Jordan.

During The Martian production design process, all of Korda’s six soundstages were used to build and renovate several major sets, including the 225-metre spacecraft Hermes, the astronauts’ Hab on Mars and the launch pad for the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV).

In addition to Korda Studios and Jordan, filming was also done in a Budapest building known as The Whale. Max illustrates the building as “sophisticated, cutting-edge architecture on a world-class level”.  The Whale’s futuristic, curvilinear glass façade was NASA’s “next gen” headquarters. However, the real work of art of The Martian production design is the Mission Control Room, NASA’s communications hub that featured a massive central screen.

Even though the film was in a constant reddish dirt colour, it managed to be a cinematic beauty. It’s the closest thing we have to a preview of humankind’s potential future on the Red Planet.


Photos by 20th Century Fox

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