One of the reasons why “The Martian” resonates with audiences is the realistic way in which Mark’s arc unfolds. The odds stacked against him are monumental, and his optimism wanes as years pass. He is no longer the indomitably strong-willed botanist we know — the ordeal has left a mark on him. Despite these dire circumstances, there is something essentially life-affirming about Mark’s journey. Although his video logs become more hopeless/depressing, he continues to work on the rover. Even when in the gutter, Mark Watney refuses to give up and dares to hope while gazing at the stars.
The climactic rescue is rife with problems, as Mark and his ascent vehicle need to be lightweight enough to achieve enough velocity to rendezvous with the Hermes. Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) uses an explosive to slow their craft down and reach Mark, but the attempt fails. Just as all hope seems lost, Mark does the unthinkable: he punctures a hole in his suit to use it as a propeller toward Lewis. The plan works, and the catharsis attached to this moment is immense, as Mark’s laborious struggle finally pays off.
In the end, Mark decides to become an instructor for aspiring astronauts, and his tale of survival becomes a principal guide for the next generation. Mark emphasizes the importance of perseverance, as luck can only take one so far. The ending also touches on the lives of the rest of the crew — while this is a neat, gift-wrapped ending, it works fairly well with the overarching themes of the story. All is well in the end, and as unrealistic as that might sound, this happy ending is thoroughly earned in “The Martian.” After all, it is a literal leap of faith that saves Mark’s life in the end.