Book vs Movie: The Martian

Late to the party. I know. Don’t care.

The Martian, is a 2011 novel by Andy Weir. This science fiction story was originally self-released on Weir’s website, and was not actually published in print format until 2014. It would be Weir’s first published novel. A film version with the same name, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon, was released in late 2015. How did these two versions of the same story compare? I have to ask, because history has not taken kindly to hollyweird adaptations of novels. Some come close. But usually fans of the book end up with a lot of complaints. I know I have in the past. A lot.

I’ll start with this; I had no intentions on reading this book. In fact it wasn’t even on my radar. Not that I have been reading much lately. And while the movie of the same name looked interesting, I only ended up watching it out of boredom. I was flipping through the channels one day. Unable to find anything to watch. I settled on The Martian. It was being shown on FX and I was jumping into it about 45 minutes or so after it started. But with commercials and all, I probably only missed about 30, or so minutes. It never ceases to amaze me how networks turn a two hour and twenty minute movie into about 4 hours. You get commercials every five to ten minutes. Anyway…

I initially just turned this movie on for background noise, and went about my business on my computer. My hobby desk/workstation sits directly behind the sofa. Strategically placed so I can watch hockey games and hobby at the same time. As the movie pressed on, I soon found myself peering around the monitor and watching the movie. Before long I was actually sitting at the sofa munching on a snack. I was thoroughly invested in this movie. 

Admittedly, I am not the biggest fan of Matt Damon. It’s not that I think he is a bad actor. Far from it. His cameos for Kevin Smith’s movies are great. For whatever reason, many of his movies just don’t pique my interest. I wasn’t really taken by the Bourne movies. But I may have never really given them a fair chance either, I guess. So, when this movie came out in 2015, I saw the previews, but I never really cast it a second glance. Even though I had friends tell me that I should definitely check it out and It would be right down my alley. For starters, it’s directed by Ridley Scott. Who has made some of my favorite movies. Bladerunner, Legend, Gladiator, the Alien movies. To name quite a few. I actually didn’t know that he directed this movie until I saw the credit roll. Though it made sense. He would be perfect for a story like this. 

After the movie, by sheer happenstance, my wife and I both bought Kindles. We both wanted to read more. In the past ten years or so I hadn’t been reading half as many books as I’d like. I had a kindle almost 15 years ago, or so, before it died after a long heavily used life. I have never read as many books, in succession, as I had with that tablet. I had used the Kindle App to read a few books, but staring at my iPad for hours on end just makes my eyes tired. All that blue light or whatever it is. The new Kindle Paperwhite is great. Super easy on the eyes. We both love it. The only issue I had was deciding what to read first. With that said, my first book on my new Kindle ended up being The Martian. And I breezed through it in about 3 days. I found it to be a real page-turner. Weir’s writing style is funny and technical.

Book and Movie Comparison


The story of The Martian centers around Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon. A NASA astronaut, and member of the Aries 3 mission to Mars. Watney is a Botanist/Engineer. Shortly after the mission’s arrival to the red planet a massive storm threatens the safety of the crew and they are forced to scrub(cancel) the mission. During the evacuation Watney is struck by some debris and carried far away, out of sight of the other crew members. The storm making visibility almost zero. His biological monitor ends up damaged. So this leads his other crew members to believe that he is dead when they stop receiving his health data. The crew somberly leaves Mars for the safety of the Hermes. The vessel that brought them to Mars. Currently in orbit of the red planet. Now, it has the job of taking them home. Their mission, already being dubbed a colossal failure.

Mark, left as dead, wakes up after the storm dissipates and his crew mates are long gone. He is severely injured, and is losing oxygen from his EVA suit. It turns out the debris that hit him was a part of the communications array. And it had stabbed him, destroying his health monitors in the process. This is the beginning of Mark Watney’s story of survival in one of the most inhospitable environments ever. He is literally the only living thing on the whole planet and has no contact with NASA. What he does have are his skills and training.

The book and the movie begin to differ almost immediately. In the book, this emergency situation happens on SOL 6. (SOL being the unit for days on Mars). For whatever reason, in the movie the storm happens on SOL 18. Why they made this change, I don’t know. The mission itself was only scheduled for about one earth month. This is true in both the book and movie. So I think the book’s SOL 6 was more dramatic. Like, “Damn, we just got here! And now we have to leave…”. Whereas, SOL 18 would be like, “Well this sucks! But we’re just about done anyway…So… Let’s go home”.

From there, the book and the movie are just about carbon copies. Which was a pleasant surprise. Obviously the book has much more detail. It explains all the scientific stuff with great detail. Sometimes overwhelmingly so. While there are some cosmetic and smaller changes made here and there, the biggest changes from the book to the movie comes just before and towards the end of the movie. For the life of me I am not sure why they removed the storyline from the book that happened during this period. I think it would have been right in Hollyweird’s wheelhouse. Very dramatic stuff.

In the book(hopefully without giving too much away) an accident happens that causes Mark to lose contact with NASA, once again rendering him with no contact and alone. This happens right before his major journey to get rescued. During that trip, a major case of Dramatic Irony occurs leaving Watney in a real tough situation. This culminates in an accident. All of this obviously jeopardizes his chances of being rescued. This major chunk(seriously, a large part) of the book was completely left out of the movie. Being a major storyline of the book, the only thing I could think was there were time or money constraints. I would have loved to see this all play out on film. 

Another big change was during the end sequence. As I was watching it, the scene almost ruined the damned movie for me. The scene in question takes place during the rescue. Due to an unfortunate series of events, said rescue was looking impossible. Until Watney makes a downright illogical, and quite out-of-character move. In the book, he only jokes about doing it. Which gets a rise out of his crew-mates. In the movie, he actually does it. And I am sitting there like, ”HOLLYWEIRD!”

And when you see it in the movie, you know why he does it immediately. CASH MONEY! Hollyweird, baby! This whole scene is perfect for Hollywood. It is downright silly if you think long enough about it, and just about ruined the movie for me. It made no sense. Also the mission commander’s actions at the end made no sense. That was another change from the book.

There were other smaller changes made in the movie, of course. Some things from the book were alluded to, which was cool, but mostly left out. Watney was alone on Mars for well over a year, so he had a lot of strife and personal triumphs. He was also forced to make a lot of dangerous decisions. As you would expect for someone in that situation. One was regarding a highly radioactive piece of equipment. This piece of equipment made multiple appearances in the book. But not as much in the movie.

In the end, I thought the movie was very faithful to the book. Sometimes it was almost word-for-word. Particularly some of the conversations. The casting in the movie was pretty good. The most fitting was Matt Damon. His portrayal of Mark Watney was spot-on to what I envisioned as I read the book. His sarcastic asides, particularly the ‘Space Pirate’ scene, were outstanding. Having read the book after seeing the movie I totally get it. There really wasn’t anyone else to play that role. At least not that I can think of. 

Compared to the book, The movie’s timeline was obviously rushed due to time and money constraints. That much is very evident. But I think they did a great job capturing Watney’s character. As well as the supporting cast. The soundtrack was perfect too. Music is a running gag throughout the book and movie.

I enjoyed the book so much that I started reading Andy Weir’s most recent novel, Project Hail Mary, and I enjoyed it too. He really does his homework. And there is a lot to do when writing about space travel and science. Project Hail Mary is slated to be a movie too, from what I hear. It is a lot more science fiction than The Martian is. So I am curious to see where that goes. But only time will tell. And it’s an article for a much later date.

[This post was originally published at Otherverse Games & Hobbies]


All of these are true except for one:

Robert is: a Hobbyist, a Music Lover, an RPG Gamer, a Mustard Lover, Chaotic Neutral, a Japanese Speaker, a Veteran, an Otaku, a Table Tennis Player, an Anime Fan, an Aviation Professional, a New York Rangers Fan, a Chaos Lover With Loyalist Tendencies.

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