There were, shall we say, divergent views on the topic of the Martian within our household. In order to fairly represent them, this review will take the form of a Socratic dialogue between two completely hypothetical people, who we will call E and S.
S: So I thought there was a lot to like here, but also some substantial problems. The movie’s greatest strength was probably the likeable banter of the protagonist Mark, an impressive feat from Matt Damon as it’s a solo act for most of the time. A lot of the pleasure of the movie comes from hearing his reactions to the problems he encounters as he–
E: Fixes things! On Mars!
S: Yup. I guess my main issues were to do with the fact that the narrative was distributed over quite a large number of scenes, and there could be a substantial time break from scene to scene. If you have a ten minute scene and then three months offscreen and then another ten minute scene, it’s easy for it to come across as rather disjointed.
E: He digs up the rover and makes it work. Who doesn’t like rovers?
S: The rover was pretty cute.
E: And then he fixes everything and communicates using hexadecimal.
S: Which was great, but I also thought that when the Chinese space agency became involved the whole thing was introduced and resolved too soon. It felt rushed to me. This seems to be a common issue for books that are adapted to movies.
E: He grows potatoes and then he eats the potatoes. And then the potato lab blew up, which was sad.
S: On that subject, why did they send a botanist to Mars in the first place? I’m pretty sure that an engineer would have known how to fertilise crops. It seemed a very weird speciality to pick on.
E: I like potatoes.
S: Anyway, I suspect that I would like the book more than the movie, and I am quite tempted to read it. Though I suspect that your level of enjoyment depends on how exciting you find it when he–
E: FIXES ALL THE THINGS! ON MARS!!!