I finally got to check out The Martian this afternoon. I thought it was fantastic, as did the family members with me, young and old. It has all the great imagery and action sequences that I go to the movies for.
It’s a while since I read Andy Weir’s book, but based on my recollection I felt the movie was true to the story in all the right places, and better in some. Mark Watney is MacGyver on Mars. The detailed technical exposition is largely gone, but that would have bogged down a film that was already 140 minutes long. For the most part the profanity was limited, probably another good change to increase the broad appeal of the film. Drew Goddard’s screenplay also did an adequate job of fleshing out the secondary characters, something on which I felt the book fell short.
As far as accuracy goes, just as in the book the effect of winds on Mars was completely unrealistic. The author admits as much, using it as a necessary plot device. I was a bit disappointed in the surface suits. They are visually appealing, and they look more like a next generation suit than a standard pressure suits, but they were clearly not as tight fitting as a true mechanical counter pressure suit (as we depict in In the Shadow of Ares) would be.
As for my previously expressed concerns regarding what kind of a message The Martian would have, those were put to rest. By necessity the movie focuses on the hardships of living on Mars, and surviving in space in general, but it’s also a celebration of exploration and challenge. In one scene, while resigned to his own death, Mark Watney asks that his family be told that he died doing something he loved, for a cause that was bigger than himself. Amen.