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Posts Tagged ‘Edgar Rice Burroughs’

What follows is more a selection of rambling thoughts on how John Carter fails as an adaptation of a book rather than a review. It does however contain plot spoilers:

I have never been one to go for the universal fallback criticism of a movie “its not as good as the book”, neither do I believe a movie should slavishly follow the plot of its sauce material. However, my biggest problem with John Carter is how much it differs from the book. Let me reconcile my contradiction, the plot or structure of a book may not lend itself to a movie, the script writers may have better ideas than the author, or in the case of previously filmed novels they may just want to do something new. None of these is true of John Carter. Now a century old having been first serialised as Under the Moons of Mars in a pulp magazine in 1912 and then later published as A Princess of Mars by Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs has never been seen on the big screen (there was a direct to video version a couple of years ago, I suspect a chance to cash in on this movie). As mentioned in a previous article I read A Princess of Mars when I was at school and enjoyed it without being enthralled by it. The plot is relatively solid if a little disjointed in places.

The movie uses most (possibly all) of the main characters from the book, however the changes in plot drastically changes their actions and motivation. The character who suffers most is Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins), the movie gives her little to do and less screen time than you would expect. Far more criminal than this is the complete lack of chemistry with John Carter (Taylor Kitsch). How the pair suddenly declare their love for each other could be written off as love at first sight if they had just a little chemistry. The same is true of the “bromance” between Carter and Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) that isn’t given any time to develop (despite the long running time). The movie also introduces characters not present in the book, most notably the Therns, a group of self-proclaimed gods who are actually introduced in the second book Gods of Mars. There introduction changes the whole dynamic of plot, this in itself wouldn’t be a problem and viewers who haven’t read the book would never notice, however the simpler plot of the book involving wars and conflicts between the Martians natives is a far better one.

On a positive note the acting isn’t too bad despite the appalling dialogue (that makes George Lucas sound like William Shakespeare). The film also often looks sumptuous and has some imaginative production design that seems to combine some original ideas with Flash Gordon and ideas from the book. 3D is a pointless gimmick that almost never works, true to form, it doesn’t work here. So poor is its use here that more often than not I actually forgot I was watching a 3D movie. The plot is simplified too far then drawn out to over two hours making it dull and tedious. At least it doesn’t use found footage. How could it have been better? According to IMDB Robert Rodriguez was attached as director with a reported budget of $100 million (the actual budget of the movie is believed to be somewhere near £300million. In the hands of Rodriguez it could have been what it should have been, a movie, a high budget B movie.

Lets hope The Hunger Games, the nest of the “2012 Movies Based on Novels I Have Read” is better.

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I read the book A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs many years ago when I was at school although I enjoyed it at the time hadn’t given it a second thought until the trailers for the movie John Carter appeared a few months ago. Judging from the trailer it is a lose adaptation at best taking characters and ideas but not the plot from the novel originally published nearly a century ago (1917). Given the number of versions Edgar Rice Burroughs other creation, Tarzan it surprising to learn this is the first big screen outing for John Carter and “Barsoom” series of novels. Tomorrows releases got me thinking about other books I have read that will be hitting the cinema this year:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: From a novel I read a long time ago to one I have only just read. I saw the box set of the three Hunger Games novels while Christmas shopping last year, having seen the movie trailer I purchased the books and read them over Christmas. Although it loses its way in the third book and isn’t as good as Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale with which it will be forever compared (despite Suzanne Collins insistence that she was unaware of the Japanese novel) it is still worth reading. The casting looks to be perfect most notably Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, a character with clear parallels with Ree Dolly, her Oscar nominated role in Winter’s Bone. Release date: 23rd March.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac: The adaptation of this seminal novel of the Beat Generation is a bittersweet one for me, I have often thought it could make an excellent movie but my anticipation is tempered by fear that it will never live up to the book. It is in short, one of my all time favourite novels. Fortunately producer Francis Ford Coppola (who has owned the rights for many years) has chosen a perfect director in the shape of Walter Salles who did a fantastic job with The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) and has assembled a talented young cast. Release date: 21st September. 

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2: The startling revelation, I have read the Twilight books. As for the movies, the first and third actually aren’t bad. Depending on your point of view, spitting Breaking Dawn into two movies is the only way to do justice to the epic final novel or a cynical attempt to extort the maximum amount of cash from the franchises loyal following. I’m going for the latter. Still as with the final part of Harry potter, Part two promises to better than the dull part one. Release date: 16th November

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: With four adaptations to date do we need another? The 1974 version staring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow is a good film but is somehow lacking, it fails to capture the mood and the magic of the novel that is as important to “The Lost Generation” as On the Road is to the “Beat Generation“. I was a little dubious of the casting of Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire but actually think it could work. It is a novel that deserves a great adaptation, Baz Luhrmann could be the visionary director to give it to us, but why does he have to make it in 3D? UK release TBA, USA: 25th December

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