Movies and books are different mediums and writing for them is not as easy as copy and paste. I took a few screenwriting classes and I can tell you they are totally different. When you write a movie you have to show what is happening to the audience whereas when you write a book you have to tell the audience what is happening. That’s why lots of movies from books are so different because there’s always stuff that is too hard to show the audience than to tell them like in a book. Whenever this happens antagonism is usually lost.
The Martian is a great example of this. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. People told me it was better than Gravity and so I went in with pretty high expectations. I thought the biggest problem was a huge lack of antagonism in the last half of the movie.
I checked out the book because hey it was self-published too! (Then picked up by a publisher, which is the dream.) The author described himself as a huge space geek—the kind of guy who plans out Mars missions in detail for fun. So there was a lot of deep knowledge, almost too much for me. But there was a whole huge section at the end of the book that was completely left out of the movie. SPOILERS: In the movie Matt Damon accidentally blows up his home (The Hab) when he is entering through the air lock. This destroys his potato harvest, which was his extra food that he needed to survive until he has to make his trek across the desert to the next mission landing where his former crewmates can attempt to pick him up. In the book this gets way more intense than the movie. Here’s what happened in the movie vs. what happens in the book. You tell me which has more antagonism.
- Blows up hab airlock and cracks helmet, fixes helmet and hab with duck tape.
- Rations his food until it’s time to leave prepping his Mars Rover for the trek across the Mars Desert.
- Drives across the Martian desert, runs up some beautiful Martian hills, and cracks jokes with NASA the whole way about what he has to do when he gets to the lander (I can’t remember what it is called) that is waiting for the next mission.
- Gets to the lander, strips it like NASA tells him, and his crewmates comes rescue him.
- Pokes a hole in his suit so he can ‘fly’ to his commander who grabs him in space after the launch doesn’t get him close enough.
- Blows up hab airlock. Fixes helmet with duct tape inside airlock and then uses his suit to pressurize it by ripping the suit arm off. Rolls airlock to the hab to find another suit and helmet because the pressure on Mars would kill him with a duct taped helmet.
- Fixes Hab, and rations potatoes but then when he is preparing his Mars Rover to trek across the desert he accidentally short circuits it by leaning a drill on the wrong part and loses all contact with NASA. He has no way to contact them and they can only check on him via satellite.
- Sets out on his Martian desert trek leaving morse code messages for NASA when he stops with rocks. NASA detects a huge dust storm that he is heading directly into but is just subtle enough that he will just think his solar panels are malfunctioning and not soaking up as much power until he in the thick of it. This will take up more time than he has to get to the lander and he could miss his crewmates who are circling back to grab him.
- He figures out there is a storm and uses science (I can’t really explain it so I guess that’s why they left it out of the movie) to avoid it and go around it.
- Crashes his Rover in the sand and has to flip it back over. Hurts his back. NASA can only watch via satellite.
- Gets to the lander and makes the modifications that NASA sends him once he is able to reestablish contact with them through the lander’s communication.
- His crewmates pick him up as they do in the movie except he only jokes about poking his suit to fly to them and they catch him. Happily ever after.
I think the sheer size of the lists tells you which has more antagonism. The movie could have attempted to show all the stuff the book does but it would have been very difficult, not as funny (80% of the popularity of this movie is based off Matt Damon’s interactions with NASA), and there wouldn’t be quite as much scenic Mars shots. Plus it’s Ridley Scott and the movie was already way too long so it would have been fours hours longer.
What do you guys think? Which did you like better, the book or the movie?
Eviscerate: Book 3 in the Ronos Trilogy
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