Though I love science, I am not an expert at it. “Hard” sci-fi (the science fiction full of math and technical terms) is normally not my thing. My eyes start to glaze over after a while. But despite this, I love The Martian, both book and movie.
The Ballad of Mark Watney
For the five people on the planet who don’t know the premise of The Martian: A group of astronauts go to Mars. A sandstorm from the bowels of Hell shuts the operation down but not before separating Mark Watney, botanist and smartass, from his group. The rest of the movie follows his fight for survival and the dilemma of his rescue.
When I went into the movie, I was worried how much they would change. Hollywood has some strange ideas about what all should go into a story, like how The Hobbit didn’t have enough romance, so they invented a female elf to fall in love with one of the dwarves. I didn’t go there to see romance. I went to see a dragon voiced by Ben Cumberbatch terrorize people. But I’m digressing.
I was also really worried they would dumb down the science or cheat us out of some of Watney’s antics. But, for once, Hollywood got something right.
Though Watney would never censor himself (we all know what f–k means and so do the kids watching, just FYI to the MPA), he was still as irreverent and funny as ever. Just like the book, the movie was full of gallows humor. And while they did cut out a lot of math and other things, the movie stayed true to the core of the book. There was also some really good balancing between all of the various characters.
A Different Side of NASA
In the movie Apollo 13, NASA only cared about getting their astronauts back. Scenes on Earth focused on scientists trying to figure their way through problems, not CEO’s and PR guys doing damage control with the media.
In The Martian, both book and movie, you see a careful balance of the two. On the one hand, you have scientists trying to work through logistics nightmares while the head of NASA is trying to keep the government funding the program.
But there is the wonderful moment when they hold the meeting for Project Elrond. Everyone but the PR girl knows what Elrond is. At that moment, you realize, even though the guy in charge of NASA is worried about the bottom line and whether Congress is going to fund them, he is a geek like everyone else. It’s a nice bonding moment that humanizes him. But then he ruins it. You’ll have to watch the movie to see how.
Go See It and READ THE BOOK
The book is better than the movie but not by much, which is a rarity. Matt Damon was the perfect choice for Watney, as was Jessica Chastain for the Lieutenant Commander. And Sean Bean did a great job, as well.
Go see it. Yes, they tweaked some details, condensed some of the action, and cut back on the cussing. But, all in all, it’s a great watch and a faithful interpretation of what should become a classic sci-fi novel.