Looking Forward to The Martian

TL;DR: You should read the book The Martian as soon as possible. It’s a wonderfully nerdy survival novel that is well thought out, well researched, and filled to the brim with details and cool ideas. I’m cautiously optimistic about the movie coming up. I hope it can maintain the book’s humor (so far so good with Damon the trailer) adherence to realism. There’s no spoilers below (which was kinda hard >.<) and I really want somebody to talk about this book though, so let me know if you’ve finished it too :D. When I first saw the trailer for The Martian, I thought it looked like a prequel for Interstellar (more on this later). Matt Damon gets stranded on a lifeless alien planet… it’s as if he’s been typecast. Instead of being an asshole this time though, he delivered hilarious lines that really hooked me (cause I’m a nerd): “I’m going to science the shit out of this” and “I’m going to grow stuff… On a planet that nothing grows on”.

The trailer introduces the basic plot—it’s essentially a rehash of the classic survivalist story. Think The Hatchet or Robinson Crusoe ‘cept much cooler ‘cause Mars. Main reason why I took a look at the book at all was because it was cited in the trailer as source material. I was pretty amazed at its spectacular 4.6 star rating on 10.6k Amazon reviews. I grabbed a copy since I needed a book to read during upcoming travel to Madison for Sylli’s wedding and back to SFO. Funnily enough, on the drive up to the wedding, I found out that Jeevs and Richard had both also bought the book at pretty much the same time I did, after watching the trailer.

This was $5 well well spent. I simply devoured this book. Seriously. I read all 369 pages in less than 5 hours, in a single sitting. I can’t remember the last time anything consumed me so thoroughly. The book maintained tight pacing, an unpredictable plot, and great humor while remaining firmly grounded in science. I appreciated the unique writing style (keeping this vague on purpose ‘cause spoilers) the author Weir employed—it made things more surprising and helped round out the world he created.

However, the best part of the book was all of the technical detail that went into all of the scenarios. I’ll admit that I was nerdy enough to double-check some of the calculations myself, and was thoroughly impressed with the fact that Weir clearly did his homework.

As a mechanical engineer, I empathized with Watney (the character Damon is playing) and admired his entire approach to survival. His ability to balance careful analysis and quick reactions to come up with creative out of this world (hehe) solutions to problems all while remaining light-hearted is very impressive. The guy is pretty much a stud. I could only hope to remain as collected, ingenious, and sane if I ever found myself in a relatable situation.

Now about the upcoming movie, I really don’t want this to end up like Interstellar. Don’t get me wrong, the visuals were spectacular and we were in the middle of the McConaughnaissance, but my expectations were set too high. Nolan’s recent success with the Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception along with the fact that he used IMAX cameras mounted on the nose of a friggin plane to get some of his shots really fed the hype machine. I thought the movie was decent to good, but I was expecting great.

Ridley Scott is the director for The Martian and as a director he’s had some really great films (e.g. Blade Runner, Alien, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down), but some of his more recent movies have been of questionable quality (Prometheus, Exodus: Gods and Kings, etc.) Scott definitely CAN do good sci-fi, but I hope he hasn’t lost his touch.

Drew Goddard is doing the screenplay for this movie. He was an executive producer for Netflix’s Daredevil and wrote the first two episodes. He also did screenplay for World War Z, which was very different from the book, but still an acceptable movie. The most worrying thing on his resume for me is the fact that he wrote screenplay for the craptastic Cloverfield movie. The good news is that it seems like his writing has gotten progressively better.

It’s a great sign for the movie that the footage that made it into the trailer was good enough to inspire me and two of my friends to pretty much buy the book immediately. This story is a goldmine of great original material. I feel that as long as Scott/Goddard can maintain the book’s scientific basis and Damon can nail Watley’s character (so far so good with the limited shots from the trailer) it will be a great movie. Fingers crossed!

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