The Martian

martian4When I was in college, I had a class called Literature Through Film. It’s exactly what you think it is. I would read the literary (often original) source of a story and then watch the film adaptation. Mix about one or two classes of critical discussion and then write a comparative analysis essay. “The Martian” is the first story of which I took that full opportunity once again to immerse myself in the novel (written by Andy Weir) first and then watch the movie since taking that class. It was very rewarding and time well spent on both counts.

“The Martian” is the story of Mark Watney, who’s on a Mars expedition with his crew when a storm forces them to abort their mission. During their abort, Watney is lost in the storm and presumed dead. The rest of the crew had no choice but to leave him behind.

The thing is… Watney’s not dead. Now he’s got a whole planet to himself with limited food, water, and supplies with no way of communicating with the crew that left him behind or NASA. What is Watney to do? As a botanist on Mars, there’s only one thing to do. “Science the shit out of this thing.” 

I’m going to teach you a little movie secret. The rule of thumb is that every page of a screenplay is the same as one minute of film. The book is 369 pages. The film is 144 minutes. Does that mean that more than half of what’s in the book isn’t mentioned in the film? Not in this case. In fact, I’d say that about 95% of the book is equivalent to the film. I was reintroduced to each character from the book in the film and no one got left behind. Get it?

the-martianHow was that pulled off? Great directing for one thing. Ridley Scott seems to have revived himself with this film. The best film of his I’ve seen since “Black Hawk Down.” Then, of course, you have Matt Damon. He pulled off the brilliant, yet farcical character I had imagined from the novel with near perfection. I will say that I think that the character in the novel is actually funnier. But to be fair, if you follow the one minute per page rule, I had an extra 255 pages (or 4 1/4 hours) of Watney one-liners to read. That being said, the editing was crisp and concise.

The movie takes place over a course of nearly two years. Without revealing any spoilers, I can say that there was a point where Watney had to drive what I’m calling a Mars Escalade from his station to another specific location on the other side of the planet. The drive took him nearly four months. I was happy to see that condensed into 5 minutes while the other characters moved the plot forward, because reading like 7 chapters of how horrible the drive is on him was a little much.

All in all, I can now say with certainty that “The Martian” is also a fantastic movie. Matt Damon carried the film with a spectacular supporting cast of Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean, Donald Glover, and Jessica Chastain.

“The Martian” was extremely informative, suspenseful, and entertaining ride. You should absolutely see this movie. You should also read the book.


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