How Is 'The Martian' Different Than The Book? Here Are The 11 Biggest Changes To Andy Weir's Novel
Confession: I was very, very nervous to see The Martian, Ridley Scott's just-released film adaptation of Andy Weir's bestselling novel. As a big fan of the book, I wasn't sure that, even with Scott at the helm and a cast that includes Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain, the movie would do justice to its literary inspiration. Thankfully, I was totally wrong — The Martian is not a perfect film, but it is a hugely entertaining one that will leave Weir's readers satisfied and turn newcomers on to the novel. That said, there are plenty of ways The Martian is different from the book, and fans should prepare themselves for a Martian that has big changes from Weir's beloved novel.
Whether it's leaving out a major scene or adding in a new one completely, the movie version of The Martian made a significant amount of alterations to its source material. Some, in my opinion, are for the better, while others feel unnecessary. All of them emphasize that The Martian, book and movie, are two entirely different entities. That's not a bad thing, of course; some of the best book-to-screen adaptations require major changes, and overall, The Martian does keep pretty close to the novel. Much of the dialogue is Weir's, and the characters' personalities stay consistent with how they're described in the book. Still, there's no denying that changes were made, and if you're wondering exactly what those were, here's a comprehensive list. Obviously, spoilers ahead!
1. There's No Sandstorm
One of the biggest changes the movie makes is the decision to take out the sandstorm that, in the book, threatens to kill Mark Watney during his journey to Ares 4's site. The novel makes the storm a huge deal, with NASA fearful that it will be the end of Mark's mission, and with no way to talk to him, they can't warn him of the impending danger. Thankfully, he becomes aware of the storm on his own, and manages to go around it. Yet in the movie, the storm is never mentioned at all, and Mark's journey to Schiaparelli is relatively calm.
2. There's Much Less Talking
In the book, Mark is constantly speaking, whether through writing his logs or talking out loud to himself. In the movie, though, we don't even hear his voice after the initial disaster until several minutes later, and even once he's up and running, he still speaks much less frequently than in the book. It's a bit disappointing, considering how strong and likable Mark's voice is in the novel.
3. Things Go In Order
Weir's novel puts events out-of-order, with the details of Ares 4's emergency ascent not being filled in until later on, through flashbacks and others' voices. In the movie, though, the progression of events is relatively linear, with the opener showing the disastrous storm and going in chronological order from there.
4. It's A Lot Gorier
The beauty of moviemaking means that viewers get to see, in vivid detail, all of the injuries and other grossness that Mark sustains during his time on Mars, which the book only briefly discusses. That means graphic close-ups of stomach injuries and poop. Get ready.
5. Mark May Or May Not Be An Engineer
The book emphasizes that Mark is both a botanist and a mechanical engineer, the latter profession being the one that helps him most during his time on Mars. The movie never explicitly says he isn't, but it also never states that he's anything more than a botanist, either.
6. He Barely Loses Communication With NASA
Unlike in the book, where Mark's loss of communication with Earth following a Pathfinder incident is a major, devastating ordeal, the movie barely touches on this issue, and communication is almost always available after his initial breakthrough.
7. The Events Are Seriously Sped Up
This is an understandable change, considering that The Martian has an enormous amount of plot to fit in two-and-a-half-hours. It makes sense that some things have to go, and others have to be sped up — but still, I wish scenes like NASA's failed supply launch didn't happen so fast.
8. Mark Records Videos Instead Of Written Logs
Again, this is a change that makes sense; the movie would be pretty boring if it just showed Matt Damon typing on a laptop for hours. Making the logs videos, instead, was a very good call.
9. NASA Makes Replicas Of Mark's Ships
In the movie, NASA builds models of each rover and lander that Mark uses in order to get a better sense of what he's capable of doing. They may have also done this behind-the-scenes in the book, but seeing mini-Pathfinders and MAVs on-screen is very, very, cool.
10. The Rescue Is Totally Changed
You know that moment in the book's big rescue scene, when Mark jokes about being "Iron Man" by using a hole in his arm suit to fly him into space, and Lewis tells him no way in hell, and they rescue him using a bomb and a tether instead? Yeah, no, that doesn't happen in the movie. Instead, Mark actually becomes Iron Man — and the result is a truly epic scene in which Mark flies dangerously into space, only to be caught by an emotional Lewis. It's a change clearly made for dramatic effect, and oh, does it work.
11. There's An Epilogue
In the book, readers learn that Mark is safe and sound on the ship, but don't get any information on what happens after. It's a bit of an abrupt ending, and thankfully, the movie changes this. There's an epilogue added in, and it shows a now Earth-bound Mark teaching potential astronauts what it's like to be in space. There are also updates on the rest of his crew, including a sweet scene showing Johanssen holding a newborn baby. It's a sweet finale, and gives closure to Mark's story.
So sure, there are some big changes, but overall, The Martian keeps its source material fairly intact, and fans of the book should be thrilled by its on-screen version. It's not often that both elements of a book-to-movie adaptation are this good — we Martian fans are a lucky bunch.
Images: 20th Century Fox; Giphy (11)