It’s always been difficult to make a movie from a successful book, I imagine it’s difficult to do it from an unsuccessful one too but then why would you bother? Anyway, having read the excellent book by Andy Weir (I encourage you to read it if you haven’t already), I went into The Martian with some trepidation.
The Martian follows the story of Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon, who, whilst on a manned mission to mars, ends up being stranded by his crew mates who think he died in an accident whilst they were scarpering from a storm.
His crew begin their lengthy journey home and Watney awakes to find himself alone on a hostile planet with not enough water, food or oxygen to survive the four years until the next planned mission arrives.
He has to “science the shit out of this” (a phrase I’m sure we’ll all be saying for some time to come) in order to survive whilst NASA, who notice he’s not dead from satellite photography, help him as best they can and try to put together various mission to rescue the stranded astronaut who the world is now routing for.
As mentioned, I was nervous when I heard they were turning this into a film, even though you can imagine it being a film whilst reading a book, as there’s a lot of geeky internal monologue from Watney who goes into some detail about how he’s going to survive. I wondered what screenwriter Drew Goddard (Cloverfield, World War Z) would come up with to tackle this. The obvious choice would be a video diary, but perhaps he’d surprise?
Well sort of yes and sort of no. Yes, the video diary method is used to a large extent to allow Watney to explain some of his predicament and how he’s going to overcome the hurdles he faces. No, because a hell of a lot of the original science from the book is gone, simply vanished without trace. Perhaps Hollywood feels the audience just wouldn’t get it? I think this is a shame personally but then it probably would have made for a long(er) film than we got.
There are also bits in the book that have been ‘overlooked’. In the book Watney makes a few more mistakes then he does in the film, whereas in the film he’s much more botanist-turned-scientist-turned-engineer and takes to it all with relative ease.
One thing I’m glad they kept in, and I’m happy to say Matt Damon pulls off very well, is the sarcasm from the book, it’s toned down a bit I’d say, but it is there.
The crew comprise Jessica Chastain as the captain, Michael Pena, Kate Mara and Askel Hennie as various team members. At NASA HQ we see Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Sean Bean. I name these people for two reason: one, it’s obvious there’s a lot of talent here and, for the most part, it shows and two, special mention must go to Sean Bean who, I’m afraid to say, is just awful in this film. He looks and sounds like a man who’d sooner be anywhere else. I’ve no idea around the why’s and how’s but this is possibly the worst performance I’ve seen from the Yorkshire –man.
Anyway, the special effects are really very good, not quite up there with Gravity, but very good. Jordan, where the movie was shot, provides a spectacular mars-like surface and the transformation of Damon from – for-some-reason – bulked up botanist to rationed thin rake by the end is brilliant.
If you’ve read the book you may be slightly disappointed, but, you are able to fill in the gaps yourself. If you haven’t read the book then, as the person I was with described it, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable film.