Book vs. Movie: The Martian

Book vs. Movie: The Martian

This pairing might hold the record for the shortest time frame in which I both read the book and saw the movie. The book version was my transatlantic read on the way back from our honeymoon, and then we went and saw the movie that first weekend back home. Less than a week between reading and viewing! Normally I read books WAY before the movie comes out. And this book had admittedly been sitting on my to-read pile for awhile. I’m so glad I finally started it, though, because it was AWESOME.

For those that don’t know, The Martian is the story of astronaut Mark Watney. A dust storm stronger than the NASA equipment can endure forces an early end to his team’s manned mission to Mars. During the evacuation, Mark is nearly killed, and his crew (thinking him dead) leave without him. He is stranded and entirely alone on an inhospitable planet, with limited food, limited resources, and no way to contact Earth. That’s the setup you get at the very beginning. The rest is told mostly through Mark’s record log that he keeps to stay sane, with occasional insets of happenings back on Earth or with his crew as events unfold. It’s understandably kind of a survival thriller, but I’d say it’s more a story of human perseverance.

So! That’s the summary. Here’s the side-by-side comparison of the different formats:

Book

Movie

Pros

  • So, so good. Excellent writing. The character of Mark as a narrator is just done so well. There’s a surprising amount of humor, self deprecation and realness in his logs, that keep the story from being completely gut-wreching as most survival thrillers are. Some people don’t like log/diary format books, but I don’t think that would be an issue with this one, because it doesn’t read like a dry diary.
  • The author clearly did a TON of research about all the science stuff, but through Mark’s voice manages to convey it in a way that didn’t bore me to tears.
  • It felt believable. And there was a good progression of the story. As in life, once Mark solved one problem, another would come up. But they always felt born out of the environment, not just thrown in by the author to add some drama. That’s rare, and appreciated.
  • Matt Damon was the PERFECT casting for this role. He captured Mark’s personality perfectly.
  • They stayed pretty darn close to how things were laid out in the book.
  • Filmed really well, no bad special effects to ruin things.
  • Great supporting cast.

Cons

  • This is one of those cases where I would’ve liked an epilogue. It wasn’t necessary, the story ended in a complete way. But I still would’ve liked it. This is probably why they added one in the movie.
  • The log sections were done a bit differently, because duh movie, but as a result they didn’t have quite the same level of humor/personality. We didn’t get the same depth of insight into Mark’s thoughts, or how he worked out his plans.
  • Again, because of the movie format, they had to cut a lot of things, so a lot of the disasters and things Mark had to overcome were not included, or were simplified.
  • The movie didn’t do quite as good a job at conveying the visceral filth and exhaustion that come across in the book after Watney’s been on the planet awhile. They prettied things up a bit.
  • Some small unnecessary changes, especially near the end. Annoying for people who have read the book, probably fine if you’re seeing the movie first.

Clearly, since even my ‘cons’ aren’t all that bad, you can tell that I liked both of them. I loved the book, and I thought the movie was a really decent adaptation of it. If you don’t normally like science fiction, or want to dip your toe in for the first time, this would be a great choice. I would absolutely recommend reading the book first, but then go see the movie, too. They are both worth it.

Have you read the book or seen the movie? What did you think?

I give the book 5/5 stars.

I give the movie 4/5 stars.

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The Martian

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