Sunday, October 04, 2015

The Martian (Movie): Great Sci-Fi Consumed in the Right Order

Movie Review: The Martian directed by Ridley Scott

The reason I loved the book The Martian was because it was great science fiction.

There are, of course, different kinds of science fiction. There's fantasy (e.g., Lord of the Rings), and there's what I call monster fiction (e.g., Alien), there's speculative fiction (e.g., 2012), and then there's hard core science fiction, where actual science forms the core of the plot. The Martian is a perfect example of the latter.

The book carried it off with perfection, but the movie had a difficult time carrying it off and fitting everything within almost two and a half hours of cinema. Perhaps that was its greatest weakness, trying to do so much with what amounts to so little time.

No mistake, there is science in the film. But some of it gets lost, like the radiation core that is key to warming the rover and saving energy as Watney drives it the thousands of kilometers to Schiaparelli Crater in the hope of being rescued. Watney digs it up and then you see it sitting in the rover, and at one point Watney alludes to how cold the rover is when he's saving energy, but the film never connects the dots to presence of the core.

Through the two and a half hours of the movie, while the time seemed to zoom by, the plot seemed to plod along. I think the problem is that I read the book first.

Because the book covers so many disasters and Watney's science-based fixes, and writer Andy Weir does it with such efficiency, the pace of the story breezes along. The story is suspenseful and fascinating. There is more of Watney's humor present in the book, as well. But the movie spends more time alternating between Watney's time on Mars, NASA's deliberations and preparations on Earth, and the Hermes crew time. All that slows the pace of the story in the film.

If you haven't read the book, I highly recommend you wait to read the book until after you have seen the film.

Thinking about The Martian as a movie, it is highly entertaining. The story holds up and you are treated to some science as aspects of the story line. If you haven't already read the book, you won't know what you're missing and you can enjoy the movie much better. The cast is wonderful and Matt Damon is perfect as Watney - when I found out some time into reading the book that Damon was being cast as Watney, it was apparent from reading Watney's lines that Damon.s sense of humor fits the character.

If you haven't seen The Martian in theaters yet, go see it. Then read the book. They're great science fiction best consumed in that order.

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