Well, I saw The Martian (2015). And after my lackluster reaction to the book, how do I feel about the movie? I honestly think I would have liked it better if I hadn’t read the book.
The movie did a fair job of staying true to the book while eliminating all of the quirks I found annoying. Matt Damon was far more compelling as a man trying to retain some sense of humor and humanity in a terrifying situation than the novel’s protagonist who responded glibly to his plight. He did not send a “boobs” emoticon to NASA and he did not waste a 20 minute response time lag just to say, “That’s what she said.” The disco was only mentioned a modicum of times.
What was best about the movie was that the secondary characters were far more developed than what Andy Weir delivered on the page. One of my main gripes about the book, which I did not mention in my review as it wasn’t actually the biggest one, was that all of the characters aside from Mark were flat. Whether the screenwriter noticed this and decided to change it or whether they just had excellent actors – you can’t go wrong with Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Jeff Daniels at the helm (not to mention a lovely bit part featuring Donald Glover!) – the movie felt less like a depository for Weir to showcase his one-dimensional wit and more like a real story.
Some may dislike the lack of science talk in the movie, but I felt it allowed us to connect more with a man in his struggle for survival. As a whole, the movie was more well-rounded and balanced, and it suffered from none of the viewpoint indecision that plagued the novel. It was about a man stuck in isolation, the people trying desperately to get him home, and the crew that remained loyal to him until the end. Although I cannot love this movie outright – I am, unfairly I know, tying it to my dislike of the book – I do appreciate it as a story well-told and one worth seeing. It stands up on its own and I don’t regret spending my money or my time on it.