I didn’t know anything about The Martian before I saw it in theaters. I just thought the trailer looked cool and who doesn’t love Matt Damon? I had no idea it was a book. I had no idea the science was realistic and I had no idea that it would be as funny as it was.
But it turns out that no one really knew that because the book publishing deal and the movie deal came within a week of each other. It’s a really interesting scenario for a book to movie adaptation, because most people didn’t know the book existed until they heard of or saw the movie. Therefore, instead of having their own personal views of who Mark Watney is, Matt Damon is our Mark Watney. And he does a really great job.
One of the cool things about The Martian (the book) is that Andy Weir released it on his blog just for fun and then people asked for him to make it downloadable on Amazon. So he did, at the lowest possible cost of $0.99. He made the book as scientifically accurate as possible. The only really big inaccuracy is the wind storms on Mars. The atmosphere is too thin for wind storms to actually be that strong; however, Weir needed something to go wrong and move the plot along.
Even though it made me crack up a lot, it probably shouldn’t have been a candidate for a Golden Globe Best Comedy. Just saying.
Because it was also really intense. I squeezed my boyfriend’s hand really tightly at so many parts I thought I might hurt him. Matt Damn easily handled the tense scenes and the funny scenes with his seemingly natural acting skills.
Okay. So here’s a quick spoiler-free recap:
The Ares III team are on Mars when their mission is scrubbed due to a really high velocity wind storm. The team is heading towards their MAV (Mars Ascent Vehicle) when Mark Watney is hit with their communications dish. So, the crew thinks he’s dead and make the difficult decision to leave Mars without him. Surprise! Mark’s still alive and has to stay alive for the Ares IV crew to arrive…in four years. On a planet that’s determined to kill him.
I have since read the book and I found that the movie stayed really close to it. At times, it sounds like the screenplay is pulling verbatim lines from the novel. The character, Mark Watney, is funny, brilliant, and heartbreaking at the same time. You can’t help but be moved by a man alone on an entire planet who still manages to make jokes when he’s faced with impossible odds. I think no one could’ve survived alone on Mars without a healthy sense of humor (and of course, botany and mechanical engineering skills).
Fun facts about The Martian, courtesy of IMDb:
- The Mars exteriors were shot in Wadi Rum, Jordan, which has a red colored desert.
- The author, Andy Weir, wrote his own computer programs using real Earth and Mars alignment data to determine the best theoretical date for the Ares III mission to launch.
- Matt Damon’s character is named Mark Watney. “Mark” is the English version of the Latin name “Marcus,” which means “of Mars.”
- During technical checks before launching a probe, a technician declares the signal is “five by five.” As well as being a term to describe the strength and clarity of a radio signal, this was also a phrase repeatedly uttered by the character Faith in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which counted the screenwriter, Drew Goddard, as one of its staff writers.
- Matt Damon was willing to lose massive amount of weight for the role but Ridley Scott forbade it. Instead, a body double was used.
Okay, so what should you do first? Read the book or see the movie?
Well, I saw the movie first and then read the book and then watched the movie again. It didn’t change how good I thought the book was knowing mostly what was going to happen (they did have to edit out some book bits in the movie just for simplicity/time’s sake). Mark Watney the book character is even more funny than Mark Watney the movie character. I enjoyed both very much and they’re definitely stand alone pieces. You don’t have to read the book if you only want to watch the movie.
That being said, it’s a damn good book. 12/10 would re-read and recommend to anyone. There’s a lot of science, but it isn’t presented in an intimidating way. Watney’s a down-to-earth (haha get it?) guy from Chicago who loves the Cubs and is great at problem-solving. You’ll fall in love with the way he talks and approaches problems and it might make you want to grow your own potatoes (he grows potatoes on Mars. It’s kind of impressive).
You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll learn a lot about Mars. What’s not to love?