I finally saw the film of The Martian (in Hebrew: To save Mark Watney) earlier this month, but am only now getting round to noting my reaction.
First, the film stays pretty close to the book. So the storyline is like this: because of a horrendous storm, astronaut Mark Watney is separated from his Mars crew, who return home without him. Everyone thinks he’s dead, but he isn’t. So, can he survive? And if so, how? And can he be rescued? And if so, how? To quote from the film:
“In the face of overwhelming odds, I’m left with only one option, I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this.”
Second, the film delivers a thoroughly engaging experience, with nary a dull moment. The acting is rock solid, though those of us who saw Damon as the shipwrecked astronaut in Interstellar might have been tempted to wonder if he was becoming typecast! The script is excellent, in the main, with good dialogue, good pacing, and no flab.
Where it falters, slightly, has to do with part of Watney’s escape route that the book covers in some detail. Presumably the film makers thought that would be too boring or difficult or both for a cinema audience, and so the detail is replaced with what seemed like an aside: “So, I sorted out that problem.”
There’s also another detailed point that the film changes, getting the science wrong. (When Watney tries to make water.) But that just highlights how much more difficult it is for a film to render a scientifically accurate picture of Mars, never mind the survival program which Watney carries out. That having been said, these details – and they are details – will go unnoticed by many, and are well within the reasonable limits of suspension of disbelief. In other words, believe what is on screen for the best experience. (Or check IMDB for an impressive analysis of wayward science in the film. The book is tighter in that regard, though not without its faults.)
Third, the cinematography is top notch. There’s plenty of visual enjoyment on offer.
All in all, a good night at the movies. Well worth seeing. If you have to choose, read the book. If you have time, read it before you see the film.
Incidentally, I have no idea why the Hebrew title was changed. (It did make it more of a challenge to find the film online when trying to book a seat.)