The Martian (book/movie combo review)

In her review of The Martian, io9’s Charlie Jane Anders declared that the movie made her “desperately want to be an astronaut when I grow up.”

Well, I still don’t want to be an astronaut, but I do want to work for JPL now.The Martian film poster.jpg

I just finished reading The Martian last week and I loved it.  I wanted to see the movie as soon as I could.

One of the most special things about this story is the joy it takes in science.  For me, facing a another long week in the lab, dealing with scheduling and academic politics and other BS that goes along with being a scientist, it helped me remember why I wanted to do science in the first place: to solve problems and help people.

Both the movie and the book have their strong points.  The book, originally independently published, revels in clever scientific details and plot twists that get glossed over in the movie.  The movie irons out the story’s narrative, keeping the tension building and jumping smoothly between perspectives.  A movie adaptation will never be the equal of a book, because they are different media, but I think this movie was about as good as we could have hoped for.

The Martian 2014.jpg

The whole cast was brilliant.  A lot of the characters did not appear as I pictured them in my head, but it still kinda felt like seeing old friends when each one was introduced.  The visuals were beautiful and were used to great effect.  The screenplay by Drew Goddard captured the book’s humorous tone perfectly, and the use of disco music in the soundtrack was perfect.

While I was mildly unhappy with a few of the minor changes they made for the movie, I can understand why they made most of them; for example expanding Cmdr Lewis’s role at the end was nice, but it came at the expense of Beck, my favorite crew member.  Two things I don’t understand: the space pirate joke doesn’t work without loss of communication, and why do they not highlight his mechanical engineer training when it was possibly even more relevant to his survival than the botany?

In short, if you liked the book, you gotta see the movie.  If you liked the movie, you need to check out the book.  This is sci-fi not just with fictional science, but as fiction about science.  And that’s something I for one could use some more of.  If only just to get me through this week at work.

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