Friday, October 9, 2015

Movie Review: The Martian

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Bottom Line: Mostly faithful to the book which it manages to translate into a first-rate, nail-biting sci fi film

This movie is based on the excellent book by Andy Weir and I sung my praises on the audiobook version at this link.  The basic story follows a man—Mark Watney—stranded on Mars who is left for dead when an exploration team abandons the planet as a dangerous storm looms down upon them.  When he finds himself alive an alone, he sets out to beat the odds and figure out a means of survival until a rescue ship can be sent for him well over a year away.

When reviewing the book, I commented that a movie adaptation would be difficult because so much of the narration involves the math (and rather sound) science involved with his survival.  But the movie, directed by Ridley Scott in a return to form, handles all this brilliantly as it gives us Whatney delivering his log entries, but these are judiciously edited and bring in just enough of the scientific facts to explain what he is doing without overloading us on technical jargon.  And there is plenty of action (and humor) from the book which the movie wisely focuses more of its time on.  It follows very closely the story of the book, even if it does condense it in many places and also drops out some of the predicaments he faced (which I thought started to get a bit tedious toward the end of the book).  It also makes a few changes to the end to enhance the drama, but I thought those worked quite well.

There is not a lot of character development beyond Watney simply because there is just not enough time to fit that in.  But the stellar cast more than makes up for that as they fill in the blanks with their excellent performances. And Matt Damon is spot on as the Whatney and easily carries much of the movie.

Having read the book just recently, the story fell right in place for me, but I’m not sure if those unfamiliar with the source material may have been lost at times because so much was condensed.  But the general reaction to the movie as far as reviews and Box Office success suggest that it manage to convey the story quite well as The Martian delivers a hard sci fi film that works in plenty of drama and never derails into technobabble or CGI-excesses.  This is definitely the type of science fiction film we need more of these days.

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