Let’s talk about space pirates in What’s the Difference?
The Martian restored my faith in hard sci-fi. I think it is fair to say that hard sci-fi has the habit of taking everything interesting about science and fiction and throwing them out in favour of writing down the boring stuff. Andy Weir took the interesting parts of science and fiction and combined them.
This combination was rewarded with millions of fans handing Weir money for his book and Hollywood saying “Yes Please! We’ll even cast someone charismatic as Mark Watney, like a pre-crypto-bro Matt Damon!”
After reading the book twice – that’s a long story involving someone always stealing my copies of Andy Weir’s books – I was ready for the movie. It really looked like they’d do a solid adaptation. And they did. Kinda.
My only real disappointment with the movie was the struggle of the last act was smoothed out to focus on Watney getting into orbit. While I can understand that decision, it felt like it left out some of the tension and struggle in favour of a climactic action scene.
You know you’ve been reading too much fantasy when a sci-fi book refers to their currency as Slugs and you just assume they use terrestrial gastropod molluscs as money.
Jazz Bashara is barely making ends meet in Artemis, the moon colony. After a series of bad life decisions, she is living poor and having to hustle to survive. Then Trond Landvik offers her a lot of money to do something shady, a crime that could change her fortunes. Of course it will go smoothly…
Before Artemis was released I tried to get my hands on an Advanced Review Copy. I loved The Martian, the first hard sci-fi novel I’ve enjoyed in decades, so I was really looking forward to Andy’s follow up. Unfortunately, I missed out and had to buy the paper edition when it arrived in stores. My fortunes didn’t improve. Everyone in my family decided they needed to read my copy of the book, so over 6 months later I decided I’d have to get another copy, this time the audiobook read by Rosaria Dawson. No one stole this copy. Yay.
This is obviously a very different novel to The Martian. The narrative format, the main character, and the antagonist are all far removed from the Mark Watney diary about a man vs nature adventure. Instead, Jazz is more akin to a likeable antihero, one who has to use her big brain to solve the continuingly mounting problems.
While this was never going to be comparable to The Martian, this was another very entertaining novel from Andy Weir.
This month the Cinefix team are covering the differences between The Bourne Identity movie and book. So this will either be a super short episode or a super long one.
I read The Bourne Identity not long after seeing the movie. Yeah, I’m that guy. I’m frequently that guy. Anyway, I have always referred to the movie as being nothing like the book at all. Aside from a few names and the amnesia thing, there is virtually nothing similar about the two works. I have often wondered if the screenwriters got handed the book and only got as far as the blurb on the back cover before producing their screenplay. Let’s just hope Ludlum was able to cash his cheque* before he typed his last ‘The End’.**
Apparently Robert Ludlum was inspired to write a spy novel involving an amnesic because he briefly suffered from the condition himself. There’s a joke here somewhere about the screenwriters forgetting to read the novel, but I wouldn’t stoop that low. I mean, who is to say they even realised they were being asked to do an adaptation, this is Hollywood after all.
Most action fans love the Bourne movies. At a time when there was a move away from gritty and realistic action, Bourne came along and gave us a tense, gritty, and “realistic” action movie. The book is not heavy on the action and gives us a more traditional spy story about flushing out an assassin with counterintelligence and operations. Comparing the two is really quite unfair. But one area I think the book is superior is in the answer to “Who is Jason Bourne?” In the movie we see Matt Damon struggle to come to terms with not knowing and wondering what sort of man would have his skills. But we know. And he knows. The answers he finds don’t really give him any new information: yeah, you were an assassin dude. In the book the answers are more complicated and more satisfying for the hero: yay, I was bait to capture an assassin.
Without this film we would have not had Matt Damon bringing Mark Watney to the screen. Let’s celebrate by rewatching one of the best car chase scenes of all time:
*now there’s a saying that is appropriate to the time being referenced but is now as apposite and relevant as a broken record.
This instalment of CineFix’s What’s The Difference? covers one of my favourite books: The Martian by Andy Weir.
As you can see from the breakdown, the film was a very faithful adaptation of the book. I thought the casting was spot on – can you believe some people didn’t think Matt Damon could get Watney’s tone right? – and they didn’t dumb anything down. Probably why I enjoyed both the book and the movie so much.
For me the main difference I noticed was the curtailing of some struggles in order to serve the larger plot and not have a 3 hour run-time. The continuous stream of problems that Watney had to McGyver his way out of really brought the “science the shit out of this” aspect to the fore. Most notable was the rover crash after the sandstorm. But for the movie you can see why they would cut that scene: it would have taken a fair bit of screen time, it would have detracted/distracted from the build-up to the big finish, and they’d probably have been tempted to go all Michael Bay with the crash. Car crashes have to explode: movie rule.
So if you haven’t read the book or watched the movie, do both ASAP.
Potatoes and Pirate-Ninjas: the reason you will read this book.*
I’m late to the Mark Watney appreciation society, since I only heard about this book as a result of the movie trailer. I guess at least I didn’t find out about the book after watching the movie and wondering if it was based on anything. The blurb essentially sums up the novel “Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first man to die there.” There you go, premise done.
To say I enjoyed this book is an understatement, as I usually hate novels that try to be hard sci-fi. I mean, if I want to read a physics text book I’ll grab the one on my shelf, not some of the “plausible” made up stuff that hurts my needless exposition aversion gland. So to find a hard sci-fi story that manages to be so entertaining was no small feat. The humour was a big part of the reason for the enjoyment. I felt that this addition was very important to not only the characterisation of Watney the space-nerd – because nerds are normally only funny to laugh at – but also in how too many novels would have taken the same premise far too seriously.
So now I’m looking forward to the movie. This should adapt very well to the big screen, and Matt Damon seems like a great choice for Watney. Hopefully Ridley Scott won’t go all Prometheus with The Martian and we’ll have a great adaptation.