Monday, January 18, 2016

Why The Martian Didn't Do The Book Justice.

Josh here.
So I recently watched The Martian. You know, that movie that just came out on that planet with that one actor that the majority of everyone seems to like? Yeah, well, I kind of hated it.
Let me step back for a second and clear something up. I love The Martian; the 387 pages of it. I will admit, I only read the book after hearing about it's concept when the movie trailers dropped. But in the same regard, I would have never even heard of ASOIAF if Game of Thrones didn't come out, and thats my favorite fantasy series. So that argument, if it does exist, is null. Let me also say, in the typical book to movie fashion, The Martian is no different in that the book is drastically better than the movie, which is what i'm about to get into. 
Oh, and there may be a spoiler here and there, so treat this as your warning. Also, this is my opinion. Mine. Not yours. So calm the fuck down if you disagree. 
Im separating this into two parts: the story itself and the characterization of Mark Watney. Lets start with the story, solely because it really wasn't all too much different between the two, and not the driving factor as to why I found the movie to be so... dull. 
Team on Mars. Storm. Man "dies" during evacuation. Team leaves. Man alive. Man plants potatoes. NASA learns man not dead. NASA plans rescue mission. Team returns. Man survives. Aaaaaand thats it. Thats The Martian, both book and movie. Theres really not much variance that can happen from point A to point B, other than some filler events, such as when we actually find out Mars was once Tattoine and the Tuskens end up finding Mark and accepting him as one of their own. Anyways, no, the movie doesn't have enough time to fill in every little thing that happens from the point of Marks resurrection to the point of him being rescued, and I get that. So instead of complaining about what was left out, I'll let you decide wether or not a couple of these more major book events would have made your viewing pleasure any more enjoyable (theres plenty more subtle ones, like NASA telling Johanssen if anything goes wrong on their trip she's the only one that essentially matters).
1) The HAB decompression when Mark is in the air lock is far more disasterous in the book. Mark actually spends a whole day in the airlock trying to figure out how to survive - he can't just tape over his face mask and walk back in. He ends up having to roll the entire air lock back to the HAB.
2) Before leaving for Ares 4, Mark loses ALL contact with NASA when he shorts out the Pathfinder while drilling the hole in it. This is a major event that I'm a bit confused as to why they left it out. Imagine that: finally getting the ability to communicate, then before taking a massive, solo trip along unknown Mars terrain, that communication ability is stripped away. Oh, and to make it all the better, it's because you leaned your drill in the wrong place...
3) When Mark does begin his final trek, we find out he's driving directly into another storm. NASA knows this, but since they can't communicate anymore... Mark has to figure it out on his own. Otherwise, he's not making it off that planet.
4) Heres a biggie I was totally anticipating happening in the film.  Mark flips his fucking rover. Thats right. Completely and utterly flips it, end over end, when he's well over the halfway point to Ares. So now one lone man on Mars has to figure out how to right up an entire rover. By himself. On Mars. In a spacesuit. So this actually brings me to one of my characterization points ill get into shortly: Mark is a genius and the movie doesn't fully reflect that...
So that's just four major ones. As I mentioned, there are loads more smaller things that the book had the ability to add in which I guess the director just didn't find necessary, which I totally get, because screen time. 
Now for Mark. Mark is a botanist who "sciences the shit" out of Mars. But guess what? Knowing Botany alone isn't going to save you on a lifeless planet for months on end... Yes, the film did touch on some of Marks engineering prowess, such as his Pathfinder repair (which, if I recall, was just a plug in?). But wow did they underutilize him, which ended up never really pulling me into his character. This is fully due to having read the book prior to, so I totally understand that. But I can't get past how little he had to do to survive. In the book, things were constantly going wrong. The oxygenator and water reclaimer could have been two characters in their own regards with how much page time they had. Same with the MAV. The movie kiiiiiiind of explains how there really is no way that thing could make a 52 sol (can't recall exact number) trip. But it never touched on how much planning was actually involved on Marks part. He had to practically rip the entire thing apart and piece it back for optimum battery charges, along with Pathfinder. On top of that, he had to figure out how to get life support active for that timeframe, including having to reconfigure the layout for the oxygenator and water reclaimer. No "botanist" could handle a task like this, nor figure out how to right up a Mars rover as I mentioned before. Through all of this, Mark stays humble and the wise-cracking doesn't cease. You get that same view of him in the movie, but, without being as pulled in to his world through his trials and lack of tribulations, it just doesn't feel as genuine. I initially thought characterizing an individual from a book to a film contained within a typical 2 hour timeframe really couldn't be done well, specifically for those who have first read the book. Then I remembered American Psycho. Possibly one of my favorite books AND movies. You really got the feel for who Patrick Bateman is; his reflection on screen was fully mimicked from the book. That business card scene - you knew how Patrick felt during that because you knew him as a character. I unfortunately just can't say the same for Mark.
I want to reiterate how this is fully my opinion (and I want to throw out there I'm not the best at expressing my views through text, but I try). I respect that you may disagree, but let me just say this: go read the book before totally disagreeing.

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