The Martian | Film + Book Review

The Martian by Andy Weir and directed by Ridley Scott. 

Book: ★★★★★/★★★★★    Film: ★★★★½/★★★★★

“I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab designed to last 31 days.

If the Oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.

So yeah. I’m fucked.”

The story follows Mark Watney an astronaut/botanist/mechanical engineer, who was stranded on Mars after his crew thought he had died during a sandstorm, as he tries to survive on Mars until the next crew of astronauts can reach him, all he has to do is survive a couple hundred days, oh, and find a way to have enough water and food to last until then, considering no technical difficulties occur. Of course, everything goes wrong, luckily, in both medias, it was fantastically done.

This film(and book) is Robinson Crusoe but a billion times better, and Cast Away, but a thousand times better. It has all the nerdy tings, from math and engineering to botany, to old TV-show episodes(and to my horror, disco music). It is Bear Grylls with various science degrees, in space.  

The characters are the best part, as per usual with well-written books/scripts. In here we have Watney, who is not only very intelligent and optimistic, but also, hilarious. This guy laughed and joked while being on mars, as well as when he was being contacted by Earth. He even made boob jokes, however, this does not impede him from being sentimental and emotionally distraught over what is happening to him. Matt Damon did a brilliant job at characterizing Watney to the letter, he was magnificent in his portrayal, I believed he was Watney, and that he was stranded, and that he was clever, and that he was suffering. I rarely get those with book-to-film adaptations.  Jessica Chastain has been surprising me with her recent film portrayals, particularly because she becomes the character she portrays, in here, as Commander Lewis, she kept up with her previous roles. Commander Lewis is written as a leader, who feels great remorse for leaving behind Watney, even before it was discovered he was still alive. In the scene where they are informed of his survival, we can see in her face that she is filled with guilt. Finally someone has managed to present that after the horrendous that were a few films I saw last year. Michael Peña, Sebastian Stab, Kate Mara, and Aksel Hennie were Major Rick Martinez, Beth Johanssen, Dr. Chris Beck, and Dr. Alex Vogel respectively. I was fascinated by their stories, particularly the fun and tongue in cheek Martinez. Sadly, we get a lot of Watney (obviously) and NASA members, but barely any Hermes crew. So the love story between some characters are not as developed,  the family story of others is also not developed. I know that in films it is not uncommon to omit a lot of the character development due to time restraints, but I would not have minded if we had that, or if we took some of the NASA/Earth scenes out to leave space for the Hermes crew. Sean Bean, Jeff Daniels, and Chiwetel Ejiofor were fantastic as well, at least Bean did not die in this one, I love Daniels, his portrayals are always on point, and Ejiofor made me sad when I was supposed to feel sad, hence he was good. (Get it? reference to his previous films, also there is a Lord of the Rings joke in here.) Donald Glover as Rich Purnell was also good, I have not seen that much of him, but on the little that I have, he has always delivered, this is no exception. The casting was also sort of whitewashed in certain aspects. One I read the book, some characters were described or appeared of different ethnicity that were presented in the film, Mindy Park appealed Korean to me, but was portrayed by a white woman, and Kapoor as an Asian-Indian, and was portrayed as black.  I guess I can’t always get what I want.

I have to praise the film on keeping much of the dialogue and plot as the novel, as things were either word-for-word, or scene-by-scene. This is the reason why I usually go and see a film that was previously a book, because I want to see how other people interpreted what I had in my mind while reading. I have seen a few films like that, and they tend to be great, not only because they are loved by the people that have read the book format and find in it what they already loved, but because it stays true to what brought it into the interest of the filmmakers in the first place. Many other films choose to ignore this, and fail, this one not being one of them. One thing I did not like that was not added to the film was Watney’s reaction to being left behind and his message to the crew. In the first chapter, he makes a video for whomever finds it to know he was not dead, in it he says to the rest of the crew: “Guys, if you’re reading this: It wasn’t your fault. You did what you had to do. In your position I would have done the same thing. I don’t blame you, and I’m glad you survived.” This is not mentioned in the film at all, except an off comment that Bean’s character makes to the crew an hour and something into the film. I felt that adding that would have shown a lot of the human spirit and Watney’s character as a whole, it would have shown much of what the character stands for, and it would add a lot of character to the crew, even though they are not seen reacting to it. 

The film was also aesthetically appealing. Everything from being on Mars, to the small frames of space from the Hermes, to the NASA center, is packed with beauty. It packs a combination of more vibrant and shiny colours for Mars, and cooler tones for the reminder of the scenes.  And it does represent the emotions and thinking of each member. The vibrant colours for Watney show his optimism, while the cooler tones present the low hopes the science crew has for a rescue. Or I might just have read too much into the film. 

“Yes, of course duct tape works in a near-vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped.”

In a review of this film, someone called it science porn, and it is, yes, I was very pleased with the science, it stimulated my nerd cells.

I highly recommend both mediums, they are funny, but will make you tear up. The characters are great, the plot is great, the dialogue is great, the cinematography is great. It is a great movie. Go watch it!

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