Last week I stopped at Books-A-Million while waiting for the 3:00 showing of The Martian, and thought of purchasing a shirt — “THE BOOK WAS BETTER THAN THE MOVIE” — and wearing it to the theater as a joke. I’m glad I didn’t, because The Martian is a rare movie that not only lives up to the book, but improves upon it in some ways. True, it is a slightly different story, with less explanation-rich attempts to figure out science problems and more emphasis on emotional drama. The science is abundant, but scaled back to a level that movie-goers — encountering it in quickly-passing lines of dialogue and narration — can appreciate on the fly. This is a genuine science-fiction movie, however; every problem Watney encounters is of scientific nature. He is a botanist and biochemist, a master of ad-hoc engineering. Eventually NASA realizes there’s something alive –and something familiar — on Mars, and attempt a rescue, but they too have problems to puzzle through. So it goes, trial after trial, one solution leading to another dilemma until at long last the end is reached. The Martian communicates the emotional drama more than a book, the anguish read on the faces of his crewmen who realize they left a man behind, the awe of a satellite-monitoring intern who realizes Watney isn’t giving up. There’s little to no trace of convenient movie physics; I was especially impressed by the fact that when NASA spots Watney on satellite, they were dealing with very pixelated footage; no CSI-magic to zoom in and enhance! Though this is science fiction, in the end what finally triumphs is the human spirit – Watney’s refusal to give in to apathy, and his crewmates’ decision to take part in a rescue attempt at peril of their own life. In translating The Martian from pageleaves to reels, nothing has been lost save a little gratuitous language — and the reader turned viewer gains astonishing landscapes in the bargain. Very well done, I think. This adapation of one of my top five favorite books in 2014 is a movie that will no doubt find its way into my DVD collection when it comes out.