Adapting The Martian

If I had to sum up how much I loved Andy Weir’s novel The Martian, I would struggle. I first came across the story of a lone astronaut trying to survive on Mars after a failed evacuation in January and only (begrudgingly) put it down when I had a timed exam. It was hard to leave alone, and it had been so long since I’d felt that level of interest in a novel. Even with the assessed breaks, I finished it within a few days. It’s become that book I burble on about whenever anyone asks me to recommend anything to read – and I recommend it to EVERYONE, regardless of who they are or whether they’ve shown any interest in anything that could be described as science fiction (in that it is fiction, with added science) before. I haven’t even formulated a concise list of reasons why they should read it, like its totally effective mix of comedy and fear, or its intelligent but comprehensive incorporation of scientific theory. Nah, I usually just bang on whichever table is nearest and shout ‘YES, READ IT’. I’m not sure how convincing this is.

This love of the book, however deep and undeniable it may be, doesn’t necessarily mean that I greeted news of the film adaptation with enthusiasm. If anything, my immediate reaction was sceptical. I’m the first to admit that this attitude isn’t a good thing. I’ve talked about film adaptation in this blog before (in relation to the Harry Potter films: some of the adaptations I find most problematic), and I’ve talked about how difficult I find it to accept seeing my favourite books on screen. This is a stupid attitude to have. I even did a module at university which explained to me precisely why it’s such a stupid attitude to have. All texts are different, and should be treated as individual entities whether they’re based on a novel or a play or whatever else they could have sprung from. But bottom line is that apart from a few notable examples – sorry, Catching Fire, but I preferred the film – cinematic adaptations of beloved books make me nervous. Even though I know that they’re not going to make every single copy of the novel combust, the filmmakers might change a particular line of dialogue that made me laugh, or omit a scene I found especially memorable. This freedom should be celebrated. Instead, I’m usually to be found moaning about the book being better.

It’s unusual, then, that every single promotional feature I’ve seen for The Martian so far has made me want to punch the air. I want to treat this with a pinch of salt – I’ve been burned by outstanding trailers for rubbish films before – but I just can’t. I’m too excited. From the moment Matt Damon was announced as the film’s lead, I was convinced. If I needed to be persuaded further, I found out about the rest of the cast, which includes Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Donald Glover, to name a few. Then came the trailers. The more conventionally-structured trailers – y’know, the ones which look like they feature scenes from the film – have both been brilliant. They show a lot of things (in fact, they’re a little bit spoilery, so if you want to go in cold they’re probably best avoided), spanning the broad spectrum of emotion and tone that Andy Weir traverses so fantastically. Beats from the book are hit, and look to be hit well. Performances look promising. Hype is already reaching slightly dangerous heights.

It’s the accompanying promotional videos, though, which have been the most exciting. Ranging from an introduction to the crew of Ares 3 to a series of psychological evaluations, these videos have introduced characters in a way which – I’m assuming – enhances the content of the film, rather than directly borrowing from it. These videos have been interesting, different, and perhaps most gratifyingly of all, they’ve been funny. I was scared that element of the book (probably my favourite element of the book) was going to be lost in the film. It doesn’t look like it has. So, thanks to all of these different elements, it’s now reached the point where even catching the occasional glimpse of the poster makes me smile. This isn’t something I’m used to with film adaptations.

I know I should temper expectations, I really do, but while things are looking this promising I’m finding that impossible. All the signs point towards a film adaptation I’m going to be completed on board with. Who knows: when the film comes out at the beginning of October I might be shouting “GO AND SEE IT” at the same time as I’m I banging on tables enthusing about the novel. And in the mean time, below are my favourite promos for the film so far: trailer here. I’ll probably be watching them on steady rotation until the film comes out.



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