Review: The Martian vs. The Martian

the martianI know it’s rather late in the day to write this sort of review because both the novel and the film version (Starring Matt Damon) of Andy Weir’s “The Martian” have been available for quite some time.

However, I find them both rather compelling, which is saying something, especially for films. Usually, I’ll see a film I like, maybe a few times, and then put it away for a while. However, I feel as if I could read the novel and watch the movie repeatedly, with the tale of Mark Watney remaining as fresh as ever.

For those few of you who are unfamiliar with the book and the movie, they describe the struggles of Astronaut Mark Watney, who is presumed dead, killed in a sandstorm, and left alone on Mars.

To say that author Andy Weir has a background in science is faint praise. The guy solves problems in orbital mechanics as a hobby. Although he admits that he probably couldn’t survive on Mars like his creation Watney, his mind and imagination creates an all-too realistic set of events that challenge Mark’s ability to survive each and every day in an environment totally hostile to life.

I won’t go into the plot. For that, I encourage you to read the book and watch the film. As with most books turned into movies, the novel contains far more detailed information. I’ve read some of the Amazon reviews, and a few folks believe there are too many details.

To me, it’s a survival manual and an adventure tale rolled into one, with a side of stand-up comedy.

For scientific accuracy, I’d choose the novel. The climax of the story is handled, in my opinion, a bit more realistically in the book than how the movie depicts our hero’s rescue. On the other hand, the book ends with Watney aboard a spaceship headed for home. End of story. In the movie, we see what happens next.

(Spoiler alert).

I found the film provided me with a greater sense of closure. Mark Watney back on Earth after being stranded alone on Mars for a year-and-a-half. We see Watney teaching a class in Astronaut survival. It’s amazing, after seeing Mark on Mars for the vast majority of the movie, to experience him in a classroom, telling jokes, and letting his unique experience serve as a guide for the next generation of Astronauts.

Although the movie has a lot of “language,” I’m tempted to show it to my seven-year-old grandson. No matter how Mars tries to kill Mark, he continues to fight back, and to do so (most of the time) with grace and humor. He’s a fictional example of a person facing enormous odds against living just one more day, and by ingenuity and tremendous effort, keeps beating back the Red Planet.

I really think the up and coming generation, our children and our grandchildren, need to be taught that difficulty doesn’t equal impossibility. So many children on college campuses today either lost or never were taught the ability to face even mild adversity, much to our society’s shame. As parents and grandparents, we need to help those young people we care for to stand up rather than complain when something happens that they don’t like.

We need a bunch of Mark Watneys teaching at American universities…heck, at all levels of the public school system. You can only teach courage by being courageous.

I checked the novel out of my local public library (it still has a lengthy waiting list) and rented the DVD a couple of times (should have bought the disc when I had the chance).

I don’t have anything like the knowledge and interest base to even conceive of this sort of writing, but I greatly admire Weir’s ability to do so.

Whatever honors Andy Weir has acquired as the result of “The Martian,” he’s earned them.

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2 thoughts on “Review: The Martian vs. The Martian

  1. One thing to note is that, whatever it may appear to be, the story of “The Martian” is not a “get rich quick” tale.

    In actuality, Weir had been writing for many years, and had already written an (unpublished) novel, when he started the novel. He had even gained some “internet notoriety” for a piece of flash fiction called “The Egg”, which you can find here: http://www.galactanet.com/oneoff/theegg_mod.html. I actually read it several years ago and was shocked to later find that it was written by the guy who wrote “The Martian” (of course, “The Martian” wasn’t out yet).

    So we have a guy who has honed his craft for many years, built an audience (even if a relatively small one), and done a ridiculous amount of research, who finally became successful after a lot of time and effort. This wasn’t an overnight success story. The guy really did earn his stripes.

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    • I read an interview with him which explained a lot of that. I think he published an earlier version of “The Martian” on Amazon for kindle for the lowest possible price and was astonished at the number of purchases. I agree, he’s earned his success.

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