The Martian: Adapting a Modern Classic

Nearly a year ago now, I finally got around to reading a book that’s been sitting on my to-read list for ages: The Martian. When I finally got around to it, I quickly realized that it was worth it. It quickly became one of my favorite modern sci-fi stories.

But then I didn’t learn from my mistake and repeated the process all over again.

The movie adaptation of The Martian sat on my watchlist for a long time. I avoided going to see it back when it first came out because I wanted to read the book. But then I didn’t do that for ages and… well, that’s all nebulous. Now I’m here to rectify that mistake and finally cross this one off my list.

So, how is the movie version? Is it a decent adaptation? Or does it bungle a modern classic?

Yeah, it’s pretty good.

The plot is incredibly simple and effective. Astronaut and botanist Mark Watney ends up stuck on Mars after a disastrous storm struck and his crew had to flee, mistaking him for dead. Now he needs to find a way to survive on a barren planet while NASA scrambles to find a way to save him before he starves to death.

There are a few key differences in this version that I really like. For one: I love how Mark doesn’t start acting like the wise-ass he is until well after the disaster happens. He doesn’t immediately start out cracking jokes, like he does in the book. The reality of his situation truly horrifies him at the beginning of this movie. For a small while, he’s completely silent, contemplating the grim reality that he’s got no chance of survival.

But then he swallows his fear, steels his determination, and comes to a decision. Then he starts acting like the Watney we knew and loved from the book.

Speaking of the beginning, let’s talk about the ending. Personally, I wasn’t super hot on the ending in the book. Like, it was good, but it didn’t do much for me. And… well, I do kind of prefer this ending. It does skip over Mark’s PTSD, which I don’t like, but it leaves him off in a pretty fun and satisfying place. I’d say it’s on-par with the ending in the book.

Now, the other characters aren’t as strong or memorable in this version as they are in the book. The scenes they got to flesh them out that they did in the book. It isn’t a huge problem; if you had to cut anything from the book to save time, I guess that’s the best choice. Still, it does make the supporting cast much less memorable. Particularly the other members of the crew.

Thankfully, the wonderful performances more than make up for it. Matt Damon absolutely kills it as Mark Watney, perfectly balancing the goofier side of the character with the darker, more down-to-earth sides of him. Chiwetel Ejiofor stands out pretty well, too; his character isn’t all that memorable, but he manages to communicate the stress he undergoes in every scene perfectly. Sean Bean is as great as always, too. And he didn’t even need to die in this movie!

How do you think he felt during the Council of Elrond scene? Do you think he was sitting there like “This is technically the second time I’ve attended this council.” Or do you think he was holding himself back from saying “One does not simply fly back to Mars”?

Visually speaking, this movie is pretty good! The special effects look amazing, it has some pretty clever editing, and some of the shots are really dynamic and interesting! I particularly enjoy the clever shots using the security cameras and Mark’s video logs. It’s a nice way to integrate the logs from the book into the film version!

Overall, this movie is a really strong adaptation! It takes what works from the book, trims the fat, and makes a few bold changes to make it stand out. If you loved the book, it’s well worth a watch! Even if you haven’t, you can enjoy it as a stand-alone sci-fi movie! This is a movie that will very well stand the test of time for years to come!

That is, until we actually start colonizing Mars. Then we can get a remake that’s shot on-location!

Although that would kinda deflate the story, wouldn’t it?


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