Movie Review: The Martian
I saw The Martian. Full disclosure: I haven't yet read the book. When a multimedia event like this comes around, my friends and I have found that it makes for interesting and informative discussions to have somebody read the book first, then see the movie; and for someone else to see the movie before reading the book.
The friend who saw the movie with me had already read the book. He said he was surprised by how well they translated the story to film--and especially by how well Matt Damon portrayed the character.
As for my impressions, I went in expecting something like Apollo 13. There were similarities. An accident turns a NASA exploration mission into a rescue mission. Astronauts have to jury rig equipment to survive. But the overall feel of The Martian is different. I still can't think of another film exactly like it.
First, The Martian is definitely sci-fi. It takes place in an unspecified near future when NASA is flying regular manned missions to Mars. There were scenes aboard the space ship that reminded me of strategy sessions in the Enterprise conference room from any given Star Trek series (not a bad thing).
It was interesting from a narrative standpoint that The Martian flirts with the found footage style of film making (banish any idea of Apollo 18 from your mind). Most of Mark Watney's dialogue is delivered to a camera through which he records video journal entries. It makes sense, because there's no one else he can talk to.
[Mild Spoiler Warning]
Some of my favorite parts of the movie were the scenes involving geek humor. There's a long string of Tolkien references at one point that's easily the funniest part of the film, especially considering one of the actors who's present in the scene. Later there are explicit mentions of space piracy and space ship mutiny that pretty much turn The Martian into a space opera--a genre that's near and dear to my heart.
So we've got a classic Robinson Crusoe in space story presented in a rather inventive cinematic style, with genuinely funny science nerd jokes and light space opera. Conclusion: go see it!