The Martian was first self-published by Andy Weir in 2011, republished by Crown Publishing in 2015, then made into a critically acclaimed film, also titled The Martian, in 2015. The story follows Mark Watney, an astronaut accidentally stranded on mars. He must not only survive a harsh, inhospitable planet, but somehow communicate with Earth millions of miles away to help orchestrate his rescue.
The two posters share a similar palette. They are both overwhelmingly orange. It makes sense, given the setting: Mars. The red planet. However, the similarities end there.
The book cover appears more abstract. The dust clouds obscure his figure and they seem to almost pull him back to the planet’s surface. Here, Mars is a being with a will of its own, trapping Watney. He appears to be falling through space, emphasizing his lack of power and isolation. It’s a stark contrast to the movie poster on the right.
The movie poster exudes determination. With one eyebrow raised he appears skeptical, perhaps appraising one of the many obstacles that appear before him in the course of the movie. Much of Mars’ scenery is remains unseen, save for the silhouette of mountains in his visor. It’s a reminder of just how much Watney has to face on his journey if he hopes to return to Earth. The most notable feature on the poster might be the film’s tagline “Bring Him Home”.
Bring him home are words that weren’t given any particular significance in the book, but were used within the movie as a digital hashtag campaign to raise awareness for Watney’s situation. They tie into the viral marketing campaign the movie did prior to its theatrical release in a series of online videos released on youtube. These videos allowed viewers to meet the characters, familiarize themselves with the mission, and feel the emotional tug of Mark’s situation.
Ultimately the phrase is one of unity as the world comes together to bring one man home. This message of hope is a major draw of the movie poster. It promises a story of toil, of hardship, but eventually – triumph, in the face of overwhelming odds. Compared to the aloof, detached aura of the book cover, it’s easy to see why these changes were made when it came to the movie.
After all, who doesn’t like a good underdog story?