I'll be honest, I thought this was one of those cases where I would enjoy the movie better than the book. Given that I greatly enjoyed the book, that was a pretty high bar. However, there is a lot of scientific explanation in the book which, well, would probably have been better seen than read. Also, most of the book is one guy talking and it would be far more interesting to see Mark Watney do stuff...
Surprisingly, I still found the book more enjoyable--but only slightly. If the book was an A- for me, the movie was a B+. If you could only read the book or see the movie, I'd have to say "read the book." But, honestly, you really should do both.
What I Liked:
- Matt Damon is perfectly cast as Mark Watney. And I don't mean that just because no other actor has more experience playing roles where other people rescue him (although that is true...). With Watney, there is a very fine line between a smart ass spouting quips and a guy who doesn't know if he'll survive this mess...and Damon delivered perfectly.
- Watney was a far more complex character in the movie...which makes sense. The book is in the 1st person through his eyes, which doesn't always make for a completely accurate narrator. In the movie, it is more of a 3rd person narration, and the audience can see sides of Watney we don't see in the book.
- Being able to see the science. I'm not a science kind of person (no, that doesn't mean that I don't believe in science. It just means that, in school, I did far better in English and History than I did in Biology or Chemistry), so seeing what Weir was talking about was definitely helpful.
- I felt that the characters on the Ares 3 mission were well developed here. In the book, they were mostly described through Watney's eyes and I usually couldn't tell one from the other. Here they all had their own personalities.
- Kristen Wiig. I can't not like her.
- That they didn't go into too much detail about Watney using his own, ahem, biological refuse for things. I may have had 2 kids and dealt with all those diapers, but I still can't handle that....crap . (yes, I just went there...)
What I Didn't Like:
- A lot of the quips that I loved in the book were absent here. I mean, I get it. The quips and, more importantly, the set-ups wouldn't work when dramatized. But I still missed them.
- Sometimes I felt like I was missing something. Andy Weir doesn't leave anything out of the book, but I felt that the audience was asked to just accept things a few too many times in the movie. Again, I'm not sure how the movie would have gotten around this, and it probably would not have bothered me had I not read the book.
- In the novel, Weir is pretty clear that Watney does not, in any way, blame his crew mates for leaving him behind. This is mentioned in the movie, but it isn't driven home as it is in the book. I think that is a crucial part of Watney's character, and I missed it here.
I do recommend this movie to pretty much everyone--even my mother, and I am pretty careful about what I tell her to watch (I don't know why...neither she nor my father have figured out how to use the DVD player they've had for 10 years, but whatever). However, I do really believe that the book and movie should be a package experience. Do yourself a favor...read the book first!