Overall, the film was a faithful representation of the film, not entirely surprisingly as I felt that Weir had at least half an eye on the film rights while writing the book. The biggest potential problem with the film was the inescapable fact that, for vast stretches of the film, Damon’s character is on his own, potentially leaving us with large parts of the film where he’s essentially speaking to himself. In this particular case, that was alleviated by having him making video logs. We also get to see much more of the NASA manoeuvrings – in the book we tended to stay with Mark until there was a comms blackout. The film also dealt with the communications delays (30 minutes) and low-bandwidth by mentioning them then largely ignoring them (‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ dealt with the comms delays by presenting the viewer with pre-recorded interviews). It was also nice to see the re-use of some of the old Mars probes especially little Sojourner (but no Beagle – that hadn’t been found by the time the film had been made).
Although the film covered the big disaster of the potato crop wipe-out and the loss of the initial resupply rocket, Mark actually had an easier time of it in the film than in the book – not the usual complaint!
One of the things I wondered about the book was the general population’s interest in the situation but after seeing how people responded to the Philiae lander’s tweets, I feel that the film and the book may have it more accurately than me (I can’t remember what happened with Apollo 13, the nearest real life example to this situation). The (admittedly not-too-many) people in the audience seemed to have been pretty much drawn into the film as well.
This may be the film to break the Curse of Mars!