If you're looking for a good time at the movies, The Martian is a steely eyed missile man of entertainment. With a nearly record breaking opening for the first weekend in October, the Ridley Scott directed / Drew Goddard written adaptation of Andy Weir's best-selling novel is pretty faithful to the text. But despite Mark Watney's smart-assed humor and scientific prowess still making the grade, along with the scores of other details most inferior adaptations would forget, there are still five major changes that the film adaptation has made. While these changes don't ruin The Martian at all, they are still big enough that they should be discussed.
The Opening"I'm pretty much fucked." That's how Andy Weir opens Mark Watney's tale of survival on the Martian landscape, and it's a pretty effective opening for The Martian's trajectory in its text form. For the first 48 pages of the book, we get to know Mark's personality, cutting to the activity on Earth involving Vincent (originally Venkat) Kapoor and the rest of the NASA team's efforts to find Watney after the fact. Most importantly though, the events that lead to Watney's being stranded on Mars and the ARES III crew's escape aren't recalled until a flashback on page 132.
The Bargain Behind The Hermes ResupplyThe China National Space Agency's efforts to help save Mark Watney via the use of their Taiyang Shen go off without any sort of political hitch in The Martian's film version. It's seen as more of a goodwill gesture in the name of space exploration, international affairs, and humanity itself. In the book, however, it wasn't received with the best reaction, particularly by Zhu Tao – a member of the CNSA team. He laments to an enthusiastic Kapoor how the probe was the result of constant political wrangling, only to end up being used in a rescue mission at a, "net loss for mankind's knowledge." Though we do still see the benefits the CNSA gained from the trade, as a Chinese astronaut is seen on the crew of the Ares V mission.
The Entire Journey From The Hab To The Ares IV MAVWhen Mark Watney decides to take the journey from the Hab to the Ares IV MAV, in his quest to be retrieved by the Hermes and the Ares III crew, it's a pretty smooth cinematic transition between Watney's departure from the Hab to the launch pad. This meant that an entire section of The Martian text is cut out, with one huge calamity that Watney suffered along the way being deleted entirely. That calamity is the moment when Watney drives into the Schiaparelli crater, only to flip the rover and risk undoing all of the rigging he'd done to the vehicle to help him survive the dangerous journey.
The Relationship Between Beck And JohannsenTowards the end of The Martian we see crew-members Beth Johannsen and Christopher Beck share a face to helmet kiss, with Johannsen telling Beck to keep their moment a secret. Which is surprising, considering that in the book, the relationship between Johannsen and Beck is pretty much an open secret outed by Commander Lewis in front of the entire group. While the film forgoes any development of this relationship in exchange for the moment the two characters share with their newborn child in the Epilogue, we did lose a choice wise crack by Martinez about the characters joining the "Million-mile-high club."
The EpiloguePerhaps the greatest, and most impressive, alteration to The Martian's story is the fact that the film adds an entire epilogue that shows where the characters wind up after Watney's rescue. With Watney teaching, Lewis and Vogel staying earthbound, Beck and Johannsen having a baby and Martinez going back into space; the Epilogue covers all the bases for the Ares crew – as well as the folks at NASA. We conclude the film with further exploration and civilian life. Conversely, the book just ends with Watney lamenting his current state of hygiene, despite celebrating the best day of his life.