The Movie Is Probably Better

I can’t wait to see The Martian starring Matt Damon, because I’m positive it is going to be better than the book of the same name by Andy Weir.

The Martian

I decided to read Weir’s The Martian (2011) after I saw a friend reading it, and I always like to read book versions before I see movies. And while the book was entertaining, and clearly impressive in terms of Weir’s technical detail and scientific knowledge, it just wasn’t that great.

The story was exciting: astronaut Mark Watney is left behind on Mars because his crew mates think he is dead. He isn’t dead, and when he wakes up, he finds himself alone on an unfriendly planet and must survive as long as he can. It gripped me to read about his struggles with farming, creating water, and fetching communication systems in order to make contact with NASA. I liked the story. And I liked that there were twists and turns to his triumph that left it unclear whether or not Watney will make it home alive.

But the writing was flat. I guess you could say the same about my blog sometimes (who am I to be too critical), but I found it hard to be moved by the prose. This book was utilitarian in terms of the story it presented, and even the topics it covered were instrumental. It had so much science (and swearing) that it was hard to become engrossed in the beauty of the words.

That said, the story was incredibly entertaining. I am looking forward to seeing it dramatized in film. I have a feeling that I will really like it as a movie.

I sometimes sum up my taste in books and movies thus: I like my books serious and literary, and I like my movies romantic, corny, and action-packed.

48 thoughts on “The Movie Is Probably Better

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  1. I agree, Emily. In fact, I couldn’t get through the book. I finally put it down and just went to the movie instead. I was interested in the story line but got lost in all the math and all the details he gave of how he grew crops, etc. I will say I enjoyed the movie! It’s unusual for me to prefer a movie over a book but in this case I definitely did.

    1. It is unusual for me to like the movie better than the book as well, but I suspect this will be one of those. I was actually quite impressed with the math and science details, but it didn’t make for compelling prose!

  2. For me , doesn’t stand a chance in front of Interstellar. That’s the benchmark against which every next “space” movie will be compared.

  3. I could not continue to read the book, which had been highly recommended to me by various male members of my family. All of the guys also happen to love numbers, chemistry, or engineering of some kind. I lost interest in the details and the author’s style of humor after about thirty pages. The movie was much better, especially because I attended it with one of my sons-in-law who loved it and said, “This is how I think!” Hence, the great divide between me and Andy Weir.

  4. I just finished this book last week and was thinking the exact same thing. It’s nice, enjoyable, funny, but in too many places it read like a nerdy blog. It also didn’t help that I peeked at the end and knew how things were going to go down. So no sense of suspense at all.

    I am looking forward to seeing Mars in movie form. However, people who have seen the movie say the second-half has been cut drastically. Not sure that is a bad thing though.

    1. That’s the perfect description of it: a nerdy blog. And yet I wanted to find out what happened even while thinking, “How could Mark possibly have time to write this when he’s surviving!?!?” And yes, it was funny too. That kept me going.

  5. Emily, the movie was good, but far-fetched at times. Of course, I like Star Wars which is all far-fetched. Thanks for the critique. Keith

    PS – By the way, one of my favorite authors died last week, Pat Conroy. With him and Harper Lee leaving us, we have lost two lanterns into southern life. I recognize Conroy did not win a Pullitzer Prize like Lee, but I enjoyed his writing as well.

  6. Maybe a better book/movie pairing for you would be Brooklyn. I just finished reading it after seeing the movie. Both were excellent, although the movie had a little more definitely positive ending. I haven’t seen The Martian yet, and now I’m not sure whether I will try to read the book first or not. Other friends of mine have said they liked it, but they’re not the types of readers who would pay attention to the prose. Like you, I would.

    1. That is another movie that I really want to see, and I had no idea that it was a book. I’ll look into it. Thanks, Kay! You always know so much about books and what is new and what we “literary” types should be reading. Love it!

      1. That’s a nice compliment, but I usually feel a bit out of the loop. On the other hand, I try to pay more attention to literary fiction than other types of fiction.

  7. I was hoping the same thing, but didn’t find the movie to be much better. Most friends who are fans of Matt Damon and/or saw it in the theater enjoyed the movie quite a bit, but I thought the movie was just as flat. Maybe if I’d seen it in a theater before it won awards I’d feel differently about it.

  8. I’m glad I’m not the only one who didn’t like the book. I couldn’t finish it in fact. The writing was just so overly technical and, as you said, flat. I am positive it would be a much better movie – the plot is so good. There are books out the for everyone, this one just wasn’t for me.

  9. I was impressed with the science in the book. He did things I wouldn’t have even imagined possible. But, Mark got on my nerves a bit. I do feel kind of bad criticizing a person who was alone on Mars. Maybe I would get on everyone’s nerves, too, if I found myself alone on Mars.
    I hope you enjoy the movie more. if you do, let me know – I haven’t seen it yet either!

    1. The scientific detail was TOTALLY impressive. I could never write a book like this because of that. I guess he was annoying because he was so happy and chipper all the time. I think I’d be depressed and anxious in that situation.

      1. I think most of us would be. But that probably wouldn’t make for a very good adventure book!
        Hmm. That makes me wonder if astronauts are chosen/not chosen based on their tendencies toward anxiety and depression.

  10. I agree. For a moment I was engaged in reading about his unique and personal struggles being stranded on Mars. The science parts were interesting. The jokes were okay and then became redundant and in the end I still felt just as distant to Mark (and the other presented characters) as he felt being alone on the planet. Usually, after I finish a book If it was good or awesome, it will leave me with a sense of attachment or connection of sorts that were developed between the protagonist or story as a whole. Where by ending the book would being like saying farewell to a friend or a close friend if it were the case that I loved the book. In this case, it was hard to feel any triumph when Mark was saved or feel emotionally invested for the ride of suspense, because I didn’t feel like I got the chance to relate and connect with Mark. The flat writing style can account for it. Now that I think about you pointing that out. I have to agree. It was too technical for me. If that makes sense?

    So I wanted to love it. I tried to love it. The science fiction nerd in me wanted to love it. All the recommendations from friends wanted me to love it. I ended up simply liking it. I did love the utilitarian aspects of humanity coming together as a whole, putting their ethical egoisms aside to work harmoniously towards a collective goal. That theme is noble and heartwarming. It restores some of my faith in humanity.

    On that note, I know a ton of friends who are math majors and are more hardcore science buffs than I ever could be who loved it. To each their own! Also, I don’t claim this much, but I think this is one of those exceptions where the movie may be more thrilling and engaging than the book-better even! Ha.


    1. I love that you have decided that you “like” it but not “love” it. I think that’s where I’m at as well. I didn’t feel connected after the book was over either. But I wish there had been more. I wanted to see what happened to Mark once he landed on Earth again. That would’ve made it more interesting to me.

  11. Hello Emily,

    this is my coming out 😉 I am no longer a silent reader of your blog ! I must say that you are my favourite blogger of all the blogs in the world wide web. Due to the fact that I am studying English in Austria I am very interested in American / Brittish Literature, which you can find a lot on your blog ^^ Its always a pleasure to see your old and used book copies from the 2nd hand shops, as I myself love to buy books there. Furthermore your little stories are quite interesting and I also started reading your Fiction Friday posts. Have you ever thought about reading Henry David Thoureau’s Walden?? Would be nice to know your impressions about his book, which is a long time favourite. Have a nice day and all the best from Graz / Austria

    1. Hi Tinka! It is so nice to “meet” you and I’m flattered by your words. Thank you for reading. I have Walden on my shelf, but I have never read it. It is one of those I keep planning to read! And I love Austria! I went there two years ago for an academic conference and I never wanted to go home. I spent time in Vienna and Salzburg. What a wonderful country with delicious food. 🙂

  12. I’m reading The Martian now and I love it! I love the humor and I do like the science, although you’re right that there might be too much of it sometimes. I guess it’s my science mind talking 😛
    The movie is also good, so if you haven’t seen it yet – go for it. There are few differences (obviously) but both are worth your time 🙂

    1. I’m glad you are enjoying it, and I’m starting to think that this book is a GREAT thing for those who are more science-minded. I will definitely see the movie!

  13. Emily,
    The Martian is one where I liked both the book and movie about equally. I saw the movie first. Usually I like whichever I encounter first best, but I enjoyed the book also. They were just enough different that I could see how both capitalized on the medium. I’m not a sci-fi buff, but I like the genre when I’m forced into it.

  14. I haven’t read The Martian or seen the movie, but I remember hearing that it was nominated in the best comedy/musical category at the Golden Globes and thinking that it seemed an odd choice of category.

  15. Good prediction! The book = 3/5 stars because I value character a lot more than either plot or technical detail. But Matt Damon…yes. Yes, indeed 😀

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