The first thing I have to say is “I thoroughly enjoyed the movie — and so did my husband.” I’ve been chomping at the bit to see The Martian in the movie theater and was so excited to find out that we’d be getting it on opening weekend. *girly squeal of delight* Unfortunately, we had a house guest that is not at all interested in any movie if it doesn’t revolve around some form of romance. So, I could wait until the following weekend and my husband was quite grateful that I drug him to such a fun, suspenseful, and scientifically accurate film. I’ve now convinced him that it’s worth reading the book now. Yay! Now he’ll be able to bond with my nerdiness. *another girly squeal of delight*
Ok. *cough* I have to put on my serious face now. On to my critique and observations about The Martian Movie…
To start off, I love Ridley Scott movies. I haven’t seen all of this movies but every movie I’ve seen I’ve enjoyed for one reason or another. Alien is the only horror movie I actually enjoy (to be frank I’m anti horror movies – I hate them). I love the dark cinematography of Blade Runner – he created such great atmosphere for that story that this is actually among the few movies I enjoy more than the book. The filming, actor directing, and attention to detail in Gladiator made the movie timeless and one of my favorite movies. There’s so much more I can say about his movies, but this is not the place for that. So when I read that he was directing The Martian, I had a glimmer of hope that the movie will come out half way decent. I was not disappointed. The filming was superb, every time we were on Mars, it really felt like we were on Mars. I sat in the theater wondering where on earth the movie was filmed that they successfully made it look like Matt Damon was on Mars. Was it all done in a lot studio? Was it all filmed in that one place in Africa that has red sand? What’s it called again? The Kalahari Desert? Anyway whether real or CGI or a mixture of both the visuals were amazing! It was cool to see real Mars photos intermixed within the film, it created an atmosphere of wonder and realism that propelled the human drama forward. Well, I thought it was cool anyway. 😉
Overall the movie performed amenably in chronological order introducing all the characters with the friendly banter shared between the astronauts, demonstrating their characters, camaraderie, and closeness and then boom! the story problems start. A huge storm hits that threatens the lives of the whole crew and they are forced to evacuate. One of the crew is impaled by a high speed antenna and disappears into the thick dust storm with a damaged transmitter. How would you feel having to leave your crewmate and friend for dead on a dead planet? How would you feel being that said friend who was left for dead but actually alive on a dead planet? What a drama.
I have to admit, I walked into the movie expecting it to be more serious than the book. I like Matt Damon as an actor, but to be honest, he would not have been my first choice for Mark Watney. Mark Watney is funny, ironic, and witty. Matt Damon can be witty, but he’s not funny. Sorry Matt, but it’s kinda true. But he does pull off the every day guy, which is probably why he was chosen in the first place. So yeah, serious movie. But for whatever reason I didn’t expect the overall feeling of the movie to be as serious as it was; of course, I didn’t take into account that you get a very different feeling when you watch someone suture themselves up on screen versus reading about it in humorous past tense sitting in the comfort of your own home. Interesting perspective to consider.
I have to give the screen writer credit though for making the movie as humorous as he did. I smiled to myself every time my husband laughed at all the right places in the movie, I get such a thrill to know that he’s still enjoying something that was so much better in the book. I found that much of the humor that didn’t come straight from the novel slightly more contrived than the natural humor of the original text. I wanted there to be more disappointment, more crazy moments of honesty, more sarcastic comments about his crewmate’s crapy taste in personal items. I wanted the truth about how much Watney detested sitting in the cramped Mars Rover for hours on end or how much he was getting tired of eating another damned potato. And I wanted really wanted to hear: “Yes, of course duct tape works in a near vacuum. Duct tape works anywhere. Duct tape is magic and should be worshiped.” This last one was an especially loved quote from the book because it’s so damn true! Duct tape should be worshiped. And I would especially say this after using it to fix my leaking space helmet. Anyway…
It was interesting too to see how certain characters changed for the big screen as well. Annie Montrose was a pushover in the movie but a bulldozing, potty mouth in the book — what an interesting choice. I get not making Annie into a potty mouth, because for sure this is a kid friendly movie, but why turn her into the pushover, clueless female? That’s kind of insulting. Rich Purnell was so much more real in the book too, he was certainly awkward and funny in the movie (he was surely the screenwriter’s way of inserting comic relief), but I had a harder time connecting to him as a character. I guess it’s because I actually new a guy like Rich Purnell as he was portrayed in the novel and felt a little let down. Vincent Kapoor was a bit of a physical shocker. Characters in movies change sex and race all the time, but it confused me for the character to be changed from one minority into another. I did recognized the sly justification for why Vincent Kapoor looks Black instead of Indian. Totally smooth. Not sure how many people notice that he admitted to being half Indian, but I did and appreciated the gesture.
***Spoiler Alert Below***
My only real irritation with the changes made in the movie was when Ironman became a reality. Seriously? Did you have to go there? I get why it had to happen. For sure someone really wanted Ironman to be a good idea and *insert board voice* additional tension had to be built since all of the natural tension builders were cut out to save movie time and rush to the rescue sequence. Ok. I get that. But seriously. The concept of Ironman is fun, but the luck needed for something like that to be pulled off in real life is totally unbelievable. Why did you have to remind me that I’m watching a movie?
Overall this story is the ultimate problem solving suspense story. One of the aspects that makes this story so great are all the ways that more problems are created by the unintended outcomes of people’s choices (not just in Watney’s case but also in NASA’s). You can’t always anticipate the outcome but learning to recover from an unforeseen outcome is just as important as solving the problem.
If you are an adventure enthusiast The Martian could be a movie for you. It’s totally kid friendly. I’m sure much of the big science talk may go over the heads of younger kids, but who cares this is a story that shows problem solving in action. This movie shows why science is cool and why life is worth exploring. And there’s a space pirate 😉 This is another movie that will certainly be added to my home collection when it comes out.
Enjoy your time at the cinema!