Give us a good backstory
While a compelling argument can be made against the backstory as a narrative device, there are situations where it can illuminate the interiority of a character and provide the viewer with enough emotional attachment to carry us through scenes of, say, food-gathering, fire-starting, and gentle sobbing. Cast Away kicks off with a bravura piece of concise, propulsive filmmaking wherein Zemeckis and writer William Bradley Jr. lay out all the necessary details to understand Chuck. When he finally leaves his girlfriend (Helen Hunt) behind with a ring in a box and an ominous "I'll be right back," we've already fallen in love with this charming lug. At the very least, we don't want to see anything bad happen to him.
Drew Goddard, the writer of The Martian, penned multiple episodes of Lost, so he obviously knows the value of a good backstory -- try listening to this sound effect and not having a few flashbacks of your own. But, for one reason or another, The Martian's quippy botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) remains a cipher for most of the film, tied only to Earth by his relationship with his crewmates and a quickly glossed-over reference to his parents. The film's focus on the scientific over the personal might have been what brought readers to Andy Weir's best-selling book, but, in the context of a film, that lack of history drains the character of any moral complexity and put too much pressure on Damon to do all the emotional heavy lifting.