Last weekend I went to see “The Martian” after having finished the book 24 hours earlier. I should probably preface this by apologizing for this lengthy post! Anyway, here we go. Many movies are based off of books and as we all know, there are often many changes made when it debuts on screen to make it more movie friendly or because the powers that be believe certain changes are necessary. Sometimes, they’re right – some aspects of a book wouldn’t work well on screen. Sometimes I can’t understand at all why they would make certain changes. For example, I absolutely hated the screen adaptation of “P.S. I Love You”. The book was wonderful and an emotional rollercoaster and the movie changed key and major parts of the storyline and I hated it.
So how did the movie version of “The Martian” fare against the novel?
If you don’t know, the storyline is basically that NASA astronaut, Mark Watney, is on a mission on Mars with the rest of his crew. During a violent storm he is injured and believed to be dead. His crew needs to leave in order to survive not knowing that Mark is actually alive. The story focuses on Mark figuring out how to survive on Mars and somehow let NASA know he is alive so they can figure out a way to save him.
I really enjoyed the book, especially since it was something different than what I’ve been reading lately. However, at times (mostly at the beginning of the book), I would get a little bored because obviously Mark is all alone. He spends much of the beginning of the book doing calculations on how much food, oxygen, etc. he has. It wasn’t until page 70 (on my e-book) that other characters were introduced and had dialogue. So aside from the initial storm, the beginning is a bit slow, but rest assured it quickly picks up after those first 70 or so pages.
What I liked
As I read the book, I really wondered how they were going to go about making this movie. Mark is all alone on Mars and a majority of the book is him alone on the planet and updating the log entries with how his work is going. Obviously the dialogue is limited so I didn’t know how they were going to present this on the screen, but I have to say they did a good job with this. Since the logs are recorded, they showed him doing his work and then recording updates on his video camera.
Seeing the movie brought everything to life for me as movies are supposed to do, but it really helped me visualize things that I hadn’t even thought about. The book talks a lot about Mark trying to figure out how much food he has left and rationing his food. Although we are constantly reminded that he needs to watch his daily food intake, for some reason I didn’t even think about what he would look like physically after so long. The movie is what made me realize this because by the end of the movie they really made Matt Damon look scarily skinny.
Another thing that I liked in the book that I’m glad they kept in the movie is the humor. Sure, the premise is serious – an astronaut is stranded on Mars, 140 million miles away. And the character of Mark could easily have been super depressed and have no will to try to survive because let’s face it, what are the chances NASA will ever discover he’s alive and he is seriously the only person on this planet. But, author Andy Weir allows Mark to have a little bit of a sense of humor. And I like to think that he doesn’t let Mark wallow because he is a resourceful, intelligent, and determined human and if he wants any chance of surviving he can’t waste a minute feeling sorry for himself. I was happy to see that they kept that humorous nature in the movie and even used some of the same jokes that were in the book.
I’ve picked out 2 funny moments that will not spoil any of the book or movie for you, I don’t think.
- At one point one of the NASA guys says “I wonder what he’s thinking right now”. Then Mark has a one line log entry that says, “How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense”.
- “I started the day with some nothin’ tea. Nothin’ tea is easy to make. First, get some hot water, then add nothin'”
One last thing I really liked about the movie that wasn’t in the book is that the movie gave a glimpse into where the characters are and what they’re doing after this mission. I always love endings that show the “after” because I love to imagine what happened to characters after a movie has ended. The book kind of just ends, which I’m never a fan of, so I really liked that they chose to give more closure in the movie.
What I didn’t like
While overall I really liked the movie, I really did not like that they left out 2 major things from the book and changed the ending a bit. The ultimate ending didn’t change, but they changed a little of how the ending came about, which I was eh about. I didn’t mind terribly that they changed that, but I did mind that they left out 2 major obstacles Mark encounters on Mars. If you read the book and saw the movie as well you know what I’m talking about!
Now, here is where I just couldn’t be pleased. Let me explain. In the book, it felt like every where Mark turned something was going wrong. He would make real progress, even victories, and then it would all go wrong. In the book the constant things going wrong started to annoy me because I thought it was a little unbelievable (pretending this novel is entirely believable, which I don’t know I’m not an astronaut so I have no idea!) for one thing after another to go wrong. But, whereas the book had challenge after challenge, I felt like the movie didn’t make a big enough deal out of the challenges that came Mark’s way. Seriously, he’s alone on Mars and you’re making it look easy! So yeah, I guess I’m hard to please when it comes to the balance of obstacles! I feel like Goldilocks – “Book – you have too many challenges. Movie – you have too few.” But really, I think it definitely would have been an even better movie if they would’ve included the 2 major things they left out.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and movie immensely. They were very entertaining and it was fun to see the book come to life on the screen (and in 3D!). As I mentioned, I wish the movie didn’t cut out the 2 major things. I understand they weren’t entirely essential to moving the story forward as evidenced by how easily they cut them out, but trust me they were major challenges and I think it would’ve just further showed how alone Mark was and how resourceful and smart he was.
I leave you with one final quote from the novel and the movie trailer!
When talking about how the world became so invested in saving him, Mark says:
“But really, they did it because every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out. It might not seem that way sometimes, but it’s true…This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are a**holes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do. And because of that, I had billions of people on my side.”
Have you read and/or watched the movie? I’d love to hear your thoughts!