I love learning about soon-to-be released books. I have a list that I periodically check against my library‘s catalog so that I can claim my spot in the queue. Occasionally I get to be the first person to read a copy, which is such a huge treat.
My love for reading newly released books does come into conflict with my desire to see a movie before reading the book it’s based on. This was the case this past weekend when I went to see The Martian.
I love, love, love Andy Weir’s book. It is everything I would want a book to be. Okay, I had a little qualm about one thing, but it was still a five-star book if I’ve ever read one. With such a strong attachment to the story, I wanted to see the movie, and I needed it to be as good as what I had pictured in my head while reading. That was an incredibly high bar I set for the film and a knowingly unrealistic one.
The film would have been spectacular had I not read the book. I could see the adventure unfold, and it all felt genuine. The casting was great, and the script was funny and for the most part well-paced. They definitely respected the spirit of the book.
What was missing for me was what made the book great – the science. There is a science scene in the movie, but it was only the first half of what was written, and it was so minor compared to the tension in the second half of that scene in the book. While logically I know they had to cut things back and have one sentence explanations to keep the film time reasonable, it was the pages of physics and botany and chemistry and thermodynamics (and the list goes on) that made my heart sing while reading the book. The bare bones structure was there, but for this someone who knew the full story and longed for the science geek out, the heart was missing.
I find that periodic testing of the rules I’ve created for myself is useful to see if the rule still holds true. The “watch the film then read the book” model is still the best for me. I can’t un-know things I’ve read. That being said, does that mean I will never do it the “wrong” way around again? Nope. Ready Player One, one of my all time favorite books, is being made into a film, and Steven Spielberg will be directing it. I’ve read it twice. Fortunately it isn’t coming out until 2017, so it will give my memory some time to fade.
What did everyone else think of The Martian (no spoilers, please)? or How do you separate the story you’ve read from what is revealing itself onscreen? That is a talent I would love to have.