This circumstance doesn’t occur too often, but I’ve actually read the book before seeing the movie. Going in you have this understanding of things to expect and while there were some bits left out from the book, the movie has fully captured the spirit of the book and makes for an excellent transition to film. Ridley Scott is in fine form in his best movie in years, he gives us a beautiful landscape and capitalizes on key emotional moments in Mark Watney’s journey through survival.
The Martian gives us a primal concept that hasn’t been explored too much as of recent; Man vs. Nature. Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is stranded on the planet Mars and needs to survive and gain contact with NASA until the next expedition comes to Mars. This gives us some very personal and intense moments with Watney as we see all of his small accomplishments like working a camera or growing food are imperative and huge achievements for him in his situation. We go from his biggest feats to moments of absolute disaster and despair.
Matt Damon does a terrific job as the surviving astronaut. We get to see him in horrific pain, we see his optimism, the success, the triumph, the failure, and every spectrum of human emotion. That’s not to say this movie is a downer in any sort. If anything the sarcastic tone of Watney keeps the demeanor of the story a light one. Watney knows he could die and that he has no one with him, his personality keeps his spirit up and keeps us rooting for him, Damon captures this very well with his performance.
The Martian may boast one of the best casts of the year as well. We get a great performance from Jessica Chastain as Captain Lewis and the rest of the Ares 3 crew are all very well played and show their dedication to their mission, their families, and Mark. Aside them we have a host of people on earth at NASA that dispute the best course for the astronauts that includes an uptight Jeff Daniels, the hardworking Chiwetel Ejiofor, and the communitive Kristin Wiig. These three play central roles at NASA and conflict often. One person I wanted to see more of was Sean Bean, who also played a big role at NASA. The cast all shine when their characters and endeavors come on screen.
I also want to elaborate on how gorgeous this movie is. With 2012s “Prometheus” we were given a good prequel to the Alien series, but something that caught me was how well shot and beautiful the movie looked. The Martian is no exception to this new Ridley Scott rule. The canyons and scenery are astounding, you genuinely feel as though you’re watching a man on Mars. Everything shot in space looks phenomenal too. Scott has proven to be a master of the science fiction genre and really should never cease to continue making movies in the genre.
There should be a lot of credit given to novel writer Andy Weir and screenwriter Drew Goddard. Their collaboration and jump from book to film worked seamlessly. Goddard gives us the toil of everyday life, but shows a bright and lighthearted side to the situation as well. The dialogue is great and damn funny to be honest, the story progresses smoothing and is thoroughly engaging. He did an exemplary job of how you should adapt a book.
I won’t continue to come back to compare the novel and film but I’ll make a few brief points about the differences. The biggest thing that bothered me was the lack of swearing. Mark Watney has a sailors tongue in the book and I was mostly expecting that to transition. After doing some homework, I come to find the movie is rated PG-13, so it makes sense wanting to appeal to a wider audience than having a more restrictive R-rating. This is hardly a huge complaint seeing as they hinted to language throughout and used the one F-word that’s allotted to every PG-13 rated movie. One character’s name is changed from “Venkat” to “Vincent” which is absolutely for the better. There are other tidbits where they don’t explain or leave out a few things to happen to Watney, but when I look at the movie and the book, the journey and destination are so similar and both well done that that doesn’t bother me too much.
At the end of the day, it’s probably pretty evident that I really liked The Martian. It’s a prime example of how to make a great book into a great movie. Sure there were more things I wanted to see and explore, but in hindsight, none of that is too necessary and doesn’t detract from the film. It’s easily the best movie since I’ve seen “Mad Max” and it will be compared to 2013s “Gravity”, I’m going to say avoid that comparison. The Martian just gave me such a deeper connection to not only our main character, but to the vitality of his struggle and all those that were these to help him. It’s a far better movie than “Gravity” and should be on your must see movie list. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see The Martian at the Oscars.