This weekend I went to see the Martian with Thad and his parents. It was my most anticipated movie of the year, so I was kind of expecting to be let down by it, figuring my expectations were too high. I was pleasantly surprised by the film however, and was very pleased to find that it was well-acted, visually interesting, and most importantly, an extremely faithful adaptation of the book I enjoyed so much.
Matt Damon seemed to be the perfect choice for Watney, although I suppose we were all mentally prepared for him to be a stranded astronaut by his surprise cameo in Interstellar. While Watney is primarily written as indefatigable and without a huge variety in his emotional range, Matt Damon was also convincing in the moments where he is despairing or angry. The supporting cast was full of a lot of famous faces who all played their roles admirably, despite obviously being second fiddle to the movie’s stranded protagonist. (Is it just me, though, or were Lewis and Johanssen wearing makeup in space? Somehow I doubt female astronauts actually do that.)
Ever since seeing Avatar in 3D in 2009 and getting a massive headache I’ve avoided 3D movies. A 3D showing worked best for our schedule and although I’m happy to report I didn’t get one this time, I don’t think the 3D was particularly worth the cost. The visuals were great and the extra depth the 3D added was interesting, but I think the movie would have looked just as great without it. The Mars scenery was stunning, the space sequences dramatic, and all the film’s interiors curiously stylish, so overall it was a pleasure to watch as well as a good story.
While I understand the constraints of filmmaking and the need to change, remove or condense some parts of stories for various reasons, I’m still that person who gets annoyed when the movie doesn’t follow the book as much as I’d like. The Martian follows its source material very well, though, and changes or omissions seemed to work well in an effort to streamline the narrative or make a book that is mostly the narrator recording journal entries into a ship’s log into an interesting movie. I did think it was strange that his voyage across Mars was so condensed – there were several incidents on it that were certainly interesting or made the reader wonder if Watney would make it. I also thought the beginning of the story was rushed, but a few small issues in pacing are hardly terrible flaws.
The movie retains enough of the book’s scientific basis to interest the scientists or sci-fi aficionados in the audience but is also interesting and accessible to others as well. I’d say it’s a must-see, sci-fi fan or not.