25 August 2016

Does drama end when the ending is well-known?

We went to a movie theater last year. We saw The Martian. It was likely the only movie we saw in a theater in 2015. We liked the movie. Even though it was as detailed as it was unlikely. Good fiction.

A while later, I picked up the book because it had been written about after the success of the movie. The book got mostly good "reviews" from readers. And the realists (scientists) gave it good marks too. Andy Weir, the author, had done lots of homework. He did the math about orbits, oxygen capacity of a Mars lander, the reproduction rate of potatoes, and mpg of a Mars rover. Much of that detail didn't get into the movie (thankfully), but a lot of it is in the book. I'd have been okay with a forward from the author telling me he'd done the math and hadn't stretched the truth too much. The details in the book did get in the way of telling the story.

But it's a good book. I really enjoyed reading it even though I knew the ending. The suspense and drama of the adventure survived the publicity and the fact that I'd seen the movie. That's a marvel to me. Remember Apollo 13, the movie about the near disaster aboard the third spacecraft sent to land people on the moon? Those of us who paid attention to the near disaster knew what happened and how it all ended. But my recollection of the movie was of great suspense. Of course, that required an extreme version of the "suspension of disbelief." But the movie worked.

Reading The Martian required a similar suspension of disbelief after seeing the movie and "knowing" the extreme improbability of the plot. Nonetheless, the movie worked. I was hanging on to the book and rapidly turning pages in the sections where there was action.

It worked right up to the end. The ending might have been well researched, but it seemed a bit too improbable. It was right up there with the ending of Gravity that rescued Sandra Bullock's character. Of course she had extraordinary help from a ghost.

The Martian was a good book. I found myself getting bogged down in the technical explanations, but it's possible to skim through those sections. I'm glad I read it.

Have you read The Martian? Write and tell this little bit of the world what you thought of it.

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