So as the internet has said several times with ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ ‘Interstellar,’ and now ‘The Martian’ the US has spent quite a bit of money trying to retrieve Matt Damon.
I, for one, am not too sad about the money I spent this weekend to see The Martian. As I posted earlier on this blog (not this post) I thoroughly enjoyed Andy Weir’s novel. So, the next question is did you enjoy the movie? Was it as good as the book? Did they screw it up? In short the answers are Yes, No, No.
Yes, I enjoyed the movie. No, I did not enjoy it as much as the book, but honestly when has a movie ever truly competed with a book and won? No, they did not screw it up, yes Ridley Scott took a few creative liberties. These liberties were so well done, and so in line with the story and the character, that I had to check the book to make sure I wasn’t misremembering it.
To recap my post about The Martian, the story follows stranded astronaut, and botanist, Mark Watney on the planet Mars. The book, in contrast to the movie, used a good deal of expletives and really gave you an actual sense of how the character felt. I’ve read that using profanity should only be for the most emotional scenes. When a guy is stuck on Mars by himself, having to drink his own urine, and use his own fecal matter to grow crops, I think it qualifies as the most emotional of scenes.
So, what did Ridley Scott and crew do right? Lots of things. First, they captured the spirit of being stranded alone on Mars. They captured the humor of Watney’s self-deprecating wit, and at the same time showed his fear without going overboard. The scenes at JPL and NASA felt realistic if a tad dramatized (it is a movie after all). One of my favorite things was that they portrayed Rich Purnell as the socially awkward genius, that he was in the books, so well. I think the best thing the movie did, though, was showing the landscape, hazards, and difficulty of surviving on Mars.
This then begs the question, what did they screw up? Not much, honestly it was really well done. So well done that I feel that this section is just going to be a bit of nitpicking. They cut out a good deal of explanation. The book has Watney give some very descriptive reasoning for his actions, the movie shows these actions, but as a viewer one is left wondering why? The Ironman thing, okay this was pretty awesome, and it totally fit with Mark Watney’s character. In the book it is referenced but never attempted (I had to recheck this), in the movie it is something Watney does, and it adds a great deal of tension. Finally, the thing that bothered me the most was the loss of the journey to the Aries IV site. Some of the most intense writing in the book are these scenes and several times you had to wonder if Watney was going to make it. Omitting it, from the movie, they missed a significant opportunity for great story.
So if I were to rate this movie on a scale of 10, I’d still give it a 9.5 for not actually following the book to a T and missing great storytelling opportunities. However, that being said the missed opportunities were not so keenly felt because the rest of the movie was done so well and Matt Damon captured the character of Watney so well it was pretty damned astonishing. Definitely one of my favorite movies to date, right up there with Interstellar, Jurassic World, and Mad Max: Fury Road.
So what are you waiting for? See The Martian, but don’t read the book first, read it after. Until next time folks.
Your friendly neighborhood author,