Going in to see THE MARTIAN, I did my best to have lower expectations as the the book it is based off of has become my all time favorite book. In my mind, the book is flawless and a very exciting piece of literature. In other words, the film had a lot to live up to.
I am happy to say that I was satisfied with the film, and I am happy that the filmmakers stayed very faithful to the book.
One of the biggest strengths the film has going for it, is the casting. Matt Damon is perfectly cast as the stranded astronaut Mark Watney. It is a tough role to play as the film follows this single character for the majority of the film, and we need to be able to root for him to survive. Matt Damon was able to latch on to the all the qualities that makes Mark Watney one of the best characters in literature. He’s charming, funny, smart, cunning, and has the drive to survive. I feel like I haven’t seen Matt Damon find a character that he could really get into since THE INFORMANT! (a greatly under appreciated film). It was enjoyable to see him shine and completely take command of his role. If the Watney sucked, the whole film would have been a bust.
As faithful as the film was to the book, I do have to say the film was lacking in tension. Yes, the last 30 minutes of the film ratchets it up, but I never really got the overwhelming sense of doom that I did from the book. Mars should be the villain of the film. It is should be constantly challenging Watey at every turn each time he tries something new to survive. The film almost makes to too easy for Watney. It goes by the numbers of what happened in the book, but it became very streamlined and too simple and I never really questioned whether he was going to live or die. It felt like the cliff notes version of THE MARTIAN.
That being said, I still think the film is effective. One of the best parts of the film was the comradery between Watey and the rest of his crew. I did get some sense of it in the book, but the film beings more to the forefront and it emphasizes that they’d do whatever they can to help one another out. This was the most effective during the rescue scene as I did get very emotional because I was able to feet more connected to each character, and the whole sequence is masterfully played out.
The movie was a little slow at the beginning, but as the film went on, and you are getting to know the characters more and more, you get entranced by the compelling story and it sucks you in. What I love about the story, and its characters, is that we get to see smart people making tough, smart decisions. It’s crazy how rare that is in films these days, and it can be very frustrating, so it’s refreshing to see characters be this smart and go against all odds to survive.
One of the biggest fears I had going in to see the film was that it wasn’t going to match the tone of the book. The book is very suspenseful, but it is also very funny, and I didn’t know if the film was going to embrace the wonderful sense of humor of the book or if they were just going to try and recreate GRAVITY and make it 100% non-stop suspense. I am happy to say that Drew Goddard did a great job of infusing the humor from the book into the film. It helped add depth to the film, and it’s nice to have the levity in what could have been very heavy, and depressing film.
Overall, I am happy with the film. I never felt the length of the film, (it’s almost two and a half hours) as it has a good pace and a sense of urgency. It keeps you wrapped up in the story, and you really care about the characters. Yes, the book is better than the film, but the film is effective in its own right. I definitely recommend the film and please go read the book.