Great science fiction novels often pose a unique challenge to Hollywood.
The sheer amount of production needed to make an adaptation believable is something that can’t be overstated – but it’s clear that audiences are quick to eat them up providing they are done well.
Ever since the publication of Andy Weir’s 2011 novel ‘The Martian,’ readers were hoping for a faithful adaptation of the story put on screen.
What we ended up with was a colossal adaptation of the source material, starring Matt Damon, directed by Ridley Scott, and released in 2015.
With these two giants at the helm of this difficult source material – there was a lot of anticipation for the movie. But just how well did the Martian turn out? Is it a movie worth the hype? Does it live up to the praise of the novel?
We’re going to take a quick look at this movie to see how it stacks up!
The Martian has a simplistic storyline that is wider in scope and profundity than it is in plot. In short, it’s about an astronaut who is stranded on Mars after a mission goes wrong.
Like many stories about survivors before it, the movie revolves around the practical difficulties and psychological turmoil of being stuck in a desolate place.
The real selling point of the story here is that Matt Damon’s character Mark Watney is not just stuck on a classic desert island – but a planet that he has little hope of escaping from.
The screenplay is faithful to the novel for the most part, with a few little tweaks that make it more suitable for the big screen.
Without getting into spoilers, you should expect an inspiring story about man vs. nature cranked up to 11 because of its space setting.
One thing that’s impressive about the screenplay is its success in explaining some of the more technical aspects of space survival without overburdening the dialogue with jargon and sending audiences to sleep.
Each part of the experience is explained well enough that you can understand it, even if you have limited science and engineering knowledge.
The production of this movie was vast and complex, with multiple filming locations around the world.
A movie set on an alien planet poses a unique set of problems for director Ridley Scott to tackle – namely how to get the red planet to come alive without overreliance on CGI.
Scott and the manage to get around this by using some real earth locations like Wadi Rum in Jordan for some of the exterior shots of Mars.
That’s not to say there isn’t CGI in this movie, but it’s combined with real-life locations, and it really helps to immerse the audience into really believing that Matt Damon is on Mars.
Another unique thing about the way this movie was filmed was its use of GoPro cameras.
These were employed to simulate the logs of Watney’s experience, which is a great nod back to the original source material. It’s a small detail, but the use of GoPros really adds to the realistic feel of the final product.
The CGI in this movie mostly comes in the form of some of the more unrealistic rovers and pieces of kit, as well as the martian backdrops that are always breathtaking and believable.
Another thing worth considering is the space suits and some of the more practical effects in the movie.
Multiple suits were made for this movie and whilst they look far future enough to be science fiction, each part of the costumes appears purposeful and practical as a real astronaut’s suit would be.
Matt Damon completely nails his performance in this movie. This is partly due to the screenplay which alternates between introspective moments of longing and physical moments of stress and hardship.
Matt Damon is incredible at switching between the two, playing the internal scenes with a sense of optimistic authenticity, and earnest emotional turmoil.
One of the main things he nails is the composure and ingenuity of Mark Watney, who as a result becomes a beacon of the human spirit throughout the film.
If you’re looking for a realistic science fiction movie that revolves around one single person’s struggle with a hostile environment, then this is going to be a perfect movie for you.
It’s undoubtedly one of, if not the best movie about Mars of all time, and a love letter to humankind’s struggle against death and nature.
With a rock-solid central performance from Matt Damon and a team that has created an incredibly rich and realistic depiction of what it would be like to be stranded on a desert planet, this is a science fiction fan’s dream.
If you liked this article, you might enjoy our post on ‘Despicable Me 2 Movie Review‘.