Everyone has that one friend who after any movie simply feels the overwhelming need to say “the book was better” even though no one wants to hear it or cares.
Well I’m that friend so lets talk about movies and how they stack up to their source material.
Basically: The Martian is a novel by Andy Weir about Mark Watney, an astronaut who becomes stranded on Mars after a storm forces his team to flee the planet in a hurry. The story follows his trials and adventures as he attempts to survive completely alone on the red planet. The Martian is an interesting piece of fiction because it feels like a non-fiction piece at times. What I mean is Andy Weir thinks about the problems which would be very realistic. Mark Watney needs food, water, shelter, OXYGEN. And as he tackles each problems with the attention to detail and logic that you can perfectly imagine a real astronaut doing. There’s a lot of math involved. That isn’t to say it’s boring or robotic. It oozes personality and humour. I heard it described as “the most riveting math problem you’ll ever read” and that’s accurate. NASA actually calls this book required reading for all employees and has verified that Andy Weir’s self taught research is almost entirely accurate. It’s really impressive.
Is the movie good? Yeah it’s quite good actually. Directed by Ridley “really likes space” Scott, and starring everyone’s favourite person, Matt Damon, who plays our intrepid space pirate. (read the book you’ll get it). He’s accompanied by an amazing cast too (Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Kristen wiig, etc). Ignoring the big acting overlap from Interstellar, The Martian does so much to make it an enjoyable movie. It’s kind of hard to compare it to other movies actually. It’s equal parts funny and dramatic. It’s a feel good movie about the dedication of the human spirit, and also a horrifying look into a nightmare situation when the universe seems hellbent on killing you. It’s got a lot going for it and I would totally recommend The Martian if only for the montage scene with David Bowie’s Starman.
Is it a good representation of the book? So very close. This is my major complaint about this movie and where I went full “the book was better!” in the lobby of the theatre afterwards, probably much to my friend’s dismay. This movie is a terrific representation of the source material. Even though they skip a few plot points and explanations, this is totally within the parameters you expect when you’re seeing a movie adaptation. The Martian is totally there… until the very very end. Okay now SPOILER ALERT I’m about to talk about the end of the movie because I want to be specific about something.
Right at the end when they’re trying to catch Matt Damon out of the air. In the book this whole maneuver goes more or less according to plan and they manage to get him back into the spaceship after a bit of difficulty and A LOT of math. In the movie however there’s one last twist! One last little bit of suspense at the moment when the stakes have never been higher. The moment which the entire movie has been building up to. I can totally understand why they added one last moment of critical suspense to really elevate the ending of the movie, HOWEVER it is also very dumb and I wish they hadn’t. Basically Jessica Chastain’s character randomly decides to break protocol and she’s gonna be the one to go spacewalk and catch Matt Damon. Also Matt Damon decides to poke a hole in his suit and fly around like Iron Man, this is actually a real idea put forward in the book, but is also immediately shut down as being stupid, so they don’t do it. This is a very cool moment for the screen but also completely defeats the WHOLE POINT. One of the major premises of the story is how it’s supposed to be an uber realistic representation of a hypothetical scenario. And the commander of the ship randomly deciding to break the rules despite already having a perfectly good plan, is not realistic. It was perfectly tense in the book though admittedly, everything going according to plan is somewhat less exciting.
This movie was so very close to being a good representation of the book, but then right at the very last minute they ruined it. It’s totally still a good movie but THE BOOK WAS BETTER.