Friday, October 9, 2015

Movie Review: The Martian

Yes, by all means, go see this movie.  In 3D, IMAX if you have one nearby.  Or at least a good theater.  Four out of Four stars.  There, is that enough review for you?

While there was some adaptation from the novel, the movie is faithful to the source material, as in "Peter Jackson films Lord of the Rings" faithful, perhaps a tad closer.  Several really cool sub-plots were dropped just to shoehorn things into 2:20, so there's your motivation to read the book.  Doesn't matter whether you read the book ahead of time here, see or read first, your call.

Perhaps the most jarring thing the movie brought was the 70's music soundtrack.  The protagonist's sorting through his crewmates' belongings for something – anything! – to help keep him sane mostly yielded a bunch of disco music and Happy Days videos.  Funny, either reading or watching, but it is far more jarring to be pelted with the stuff in a theater. Davie Bowie's Starman was used to good effect however.

There is an epilogue of sorts, a "where are they some years later" addition to the movie.  It's a welcome annex, and it works.  The book didn't need it, but after all the hydrazine-powered action on the big screen, this helps to decompress the audience so that they can walk out of the theater and safely drive themselves home.  Maybe the studio's lawyers suggested it, I dunno.

Look, the movie stuck closely to the book, and and that is what makes it great.  If you want a review of the book, here's my previous post.  Oh hell, here's the main point from the review:
The plot is very simple.  If you've watched the trailer for the upcoming movie, you pretty well have the whole thing right there.  Yes, it is a simple plot, simple like chess: easy to get the overview, but actually playing a tough game through to the end is the hard work and the joy of the entire exercise.  There is no character growth, except perhaps for one young flight controller.  These are adults we're dealing with here, they're already developed.  What a relief not to have to slog through pages of weepy-ass "Why am I even bothering?" prose and just get to a gripping story for once.  In short, they act the way actual engineers and scientists act.  Let me repeat: what a relief.
Yes, go read the book.  Yes, go see the movie.  Unlike some great classics, it doesn't much matter which order you do it in.  They each have something to offer that the other medium can't, and in this they complement each other.  Just... get to the theater before this one's off the big screen.

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