Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Reads to Reels: The Martian

It has been seven weeks since I ran out of ketchup. 

Last week I stopped at Books-A-Million while waiting for the 3:00 showing of The Martian, and thought of purchasing a shirt -- "THE BOOK WAS BETTER THAN THE MOVIE" --  and wearing it to the theater as a joke.  I'm glad I didn't, because The Martian is a rare movie that not only lives up to the book, but improves upon it in some ways. True, it is a slightly different story, with less explanation-rich attempts to figure out science problems and more emphasis on emotional drama. The science is abundant, but scaled back to a level that movie-goers --  encountering it in quickly-passing lines of dialogue and narration -- can appreciate on the fly.  This is a genuine science-fiction movie, however; every problem Watney encounters is of scientific nature.  He is a botanist and biochemist,  a master of ad-hoc engineering. Eventually NASA realizes there's something alive --and something familiar -- on Mars, and attempt a rescue, but they too have problems to puzzle through. So it goes, trial after trial,  one solution leading to another dilemma until at long last the end is reached.  The Martian communicates the emotional drama more than a book,   the anguish read on the faces of his crewmen who realize they left a man behind, the awe of a satellite-monitoring intern who realizes Watney isn't giving up.  There's little to no trace of convenient movie physics;  I was especially impressed by the fact that when NASA spots Watney on satellite, they were dealing with very pixelated footage; no CSI-magic to zoom in and enhance! Though this is science fiction, in the end what finally triumphs is the human spirit - Watney's refusal to give in to apathy, and his crewmates' decision to take part in a rescue attempt at peril of their own life. In translating The Martian from pageleaves to reels, nothing has been lost save a little gratuitous language -- and the reader turned viewer gains astonishing landscapes in the bargain.  Very well done, I think. This adapation of one of my top five favorite books in 2014 is a movie that will no doubt find its way into my DVD collection when it comes out.


  1. Saw this a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. It's one of those films that you actually enjoy more the more you think about it - rather than discover more and more plot holes (I'm looking at you Interstellar). Damon was great and came across as totally believable. Loved the Martian landscape and really liked how the 'back home' stuff was done. Actually couldn't fault the whole film - which makes a nice change.

    Not read the book (yet) but it will be part of an upcoming batch of books made into movies - early/middle next year on present plans.

  2. The only thing I found suspect was the duct-tape door.

    How on EARTH did they bring that much duct-tape to Mars?!

  3. Oh, I've used lots of duct (or gaffer) tape in my time. Wonderful stuff..... [lol]

    So I can see why the team had so much to hand for Matt to use on the habitat. I doubt if the plastic sheeting could survive through a decent dust storm though! Maybe if he used duct tape on the rocket booster at the end it would have made it into a higher orbit... [grin]


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