Friday, March 9, 2012

Review: John Carter

It usually takes me a while to mentally digest a movie in order to decide how much I like it. It makes it harder when its a movie that I've anticipated for so long, thirty-one years to be exact. To make a short statement, though, I will say I liked the Disney film John Carter. It probably won't make my top ten or twenty list of all-time favorites, but it had some good action, effects, humor and a functional plot.

I am a little disappointed, however. Most of that might be because of having such high expectations and then not having them met. It's kind of like the finale to the TV series Lost. It was a functional ending to the series, but fell far short of the expectations that the audience had. It wasn't necessarily bad, just not as jaw-dropping amazing as the fans wanted. That's the feeling I have with John Carter: functional. I'm thinking I might of enjoyed it more if I hadn't been a big fan of the books since I was a teenager.

One pleasant surprise was how much of the book was actually in it. We get John Carter getting transported from an Arizona desert onto Mars (with his clothes on, thankfully). His first encounter with the martians, or Tharks, was at an egg incubator. We also get the wedding of Dejah Thoris to Sab Than only this time it is more central to the plot of the movie. I think this is an improvement over the book since in the book it seemed like an afterthought. Of course, we do need to keep in mind that the book started life as a serial, which didn't have as centralized of a plot as we're used to today.

Another thing I really liked was that they preserved the science of light that Burroughs had in his books. They gave Dejah a little more roll in this, but that was okay. I also liked that they kept Edgar Rice Burroughs in the story as a character.

They also kept the part of how John Carter had to get used to moving in the lesser Martian gravity and even turned it into a humorous scene.

There are a couple of things that come to mind that I didn't like. Well, for one, there was no egg at the end. I'm not sure why they didn't have it in there, because it is such a big part of the continuing story. If you don't know what I'm talking about, that's okay.

The other thing was the Tars Tarkas-Sola relationship story. It was in there but thrown in quickly. I like the way it came out in the book better.

Also, a big theme of the book was on converting a blood-thirsty and savage society with kindness. It was how John Carter gained the trust of Woola (his "dog") and his thoats. I know you can't get all those things woven into the film, but it was one of my favorite parts of the book and a part of John Carter's character.

I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about the changing of John Carter's character. I guess it had to be done, though, in order to create a better character arc. He really didn't have much of one in the books. In the movie, they had to take him down a peg and make him an uncaring social outcast who has to find out what he really does care about. It worked and the movie had some good scenes as he makes his discoveries. They did keep the theme of him going from one civil war on Earth only to find himself embattled in another civil war on another planet. If anything, the movie made that a little more pronounced.

I'm also not sure about bringing the Therns in so early and changing their nature. It did make the plot more functional for the film and changed some of the teleportation "magic" from the book into more of a science. I need to reread the rest of the series, though, to find out how much they changed the Therns.

So, there you have it. I'll probably think of some other things as I continue to ponder it, but I wanted to throw out my initial thoughts. Bottom line: it's a fun, action/adventure movie. Go see it. But there is a lot of blue blood spilled and some revealing clothing, so it may not be for younger viewers. Just for reference, the Kids In Mind rating gave it a 2 (sex/nudity), 6 (violence/gore), and 4 (language) on a scale of 10.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Princess of Mars

One hundred years ago last month, a series of stories came out called Under the Moons of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (yes, the Tarzan dude). They were later compiled and released in 1917 as a novel called A Princess of Mars. And now, I must confess, I'm geeking out this week due to the theatrical version of these stories coming out this weekend called John Carter.

I first read these books when I was fifteen while suffering from chicken pox. I needed to find something to keep my mind off the itching so I discovered some old 1960's paperbacks on a bookshelf in the basement. There were several of these Mars books by Burroughs so I decided to give them a try. I fell in love with the world of Barsoom. And now, thirty-six years later, I'm finally going to get to see this world come to life on the big screen. I'm trying hard not to wet myself just thinking about it.

So, in commemoration of the film, I reread A Princess of Mars last week. I'm sometimes a little nervous to read a childhood favorite again in fear of it not living up to my expectations. I wasn't disappointed. Reading that book made me feel like a teenager again, and maybe a little itchy, too. The world came alive and vivid for me and now I can't wait to get to the other books.

Now, I'm not expecting this movie to be much like the book, though I have been pleased to see in the cast list that all the characters from the book are there in some form. Even my beloved Woola (John Carter's Martian dog). I'm sure the story will be very different, though, and I'm okay with that. To be honest, the book's plot wasn't the most linear and seemed to meander a bit. It mainly consisted of John Carter having some great adventures and eventually winning the heart and hand of his beloved Dejah Thoris. I assume the movie will do at least that much. Oh, but one nice change I've seen in the trailers is that John Carter travels to Mars with his clothes on. In the book, he appeared buck naked.

What impressed me again about the book was the uniqueness of the world. I haven't read anything like this in our modern novels. I am amazed at how well Burroughs thought out the flora and fauna; something I didn't think they did a hundred years ago. He subscribed to the canal theory prevalent in the early 1900s and built a world around it. Burroughs even developed a science based on light that would allow the Martian airships to fly.

So, I'm counting down the days until the movie opens. I've even been tempted to go to the midnight showing, except I think I'm getting too old for that. All I know is that this movie has been a long time coming and I hope Andrew Stanton does it justice. If he carries some of that Pixar magic with him, though, it should be phenomenal. Whoops, I now think I need to go change my pants.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Streams Create Canyons

I just thought I'd do a quick supplement to my last blog. While our son served a two-year LDS mission, I wrote him consistently every weekend. I probably spent on average a half hour a week doing the writing. Well, today I compiled all of those letters into a single document. I mainly did that because I hardly ever wrote in my journal during those two years, so basically those letters were my journal.

The amazing thing is, after doing a word count on all the letters, it came out to 42,000 words. That's almost a novel. Why I want to bring this up is for those people who say they don't have time to write a novel. But can you come up with a half hour a week to write? If you do, in two years you can have a first draft of a novel. All it takes is a little dedication. Slow and steady can get the job done.