A Retelling

First Andy Weir had an idea. Then he turned it into a blog series. Which was then published as a book. And then produced as a movie. The Martian has be retold many times in different forms, and each medium delivered the story in a different way. Ridley Scott, the director of The Martian movie, read the book (secondary orality) and then reinterpreted it into a movie. In doing so, some parts of the book were lost, and some additional features that were not originally in the book were added.

One example of this is when Mark Watney, the protagonist, is trying to grow potatoes on Mars. In the book, he goes in depth about how Martian dirt does not contain bacteria and are unable to support plant life, so he has to mix it with his team’s feces. In the movie, he goes ahead and mixes the dirt with feces without any explanation for the audience.  Upon analysis, this was likely done to better fit the style of storytelling implemented by the movie. The book always (except when the airlock broke later in the story) tells the story through Watney’s logs AFTER the event happens. However, in a movie style where most of the experience is visual, it becomes boring to see Watney talking to the screen for 2+ hours. Therefore, during most of the movie, the audience watches Watney go about his day. In order to maintain the idea that Watney only communicates with video logs, he generally does not speak outside of the video logs (because logically there is nobody for him to talk to). This means that he does not really have the chance to explain his scientific reason for everything he does.

In the paragraph above, I, as Robert Edgar would say, “read the movie.” I took a scene in the movie and analyzed it based on what I already knew, which in this case, would be the written version of The Martian. In addition, Walter Ong says, “we are turned outward because we have turned inward.” Ong says this in reference to secondary orality in which we are reading the written story. In a sense, the movie is tertiary orality because we are watching the same story recreated by somebody who read the book. Connecting the articles by Edgar and Ong, by reading the movie and “turning inward” (analyzing the movie) we are “turned outward,” and there is lots of discussion online from people who have analyzed the movie and want to share their analyses.


One thought on “A Retelling

  1. That particular scene and its corollary in the novel are indeed worth reading, and Scott’s decision to cut out the technical details is a good observation. What you never quite get at, however, is why any of that matters. For a full reading you need the analytic piece, the interpretation. Your third paragraph, which is a little overstuffed, would be better spent discussing the implications of Scott’s (and the screen writer’s) decision not to delve into the science at that point.


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