Saturday, June 23, 2012

John Carter

I watched John Carter last night. I had gotten to the point where John Carter and Sola realize that Deja Thoris is leading them towards Helium when my wife and daughter came home, so I went back to the beginning and the three of us watched it from the start.

Odd to say that despite having been married more than 25 years, my wife kept saying (with the trailer, with the movie in the theater, and then when I told her I was watching the DVD) "I don't know what that is." Failure of marriage or failure of marketing?

The three of us enjoyed it. They had no problems following the movie or accepting a Mars with air, beings, etc. Woola was the hit, but so were the Tharks.

As for me: Several years ago I waited with anticipation the release of Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World, based on another set of favorites, the works of Patrick O'Brian. I thought it was going to be one or the other of the two books in the series (as titled). What I saw was a mash-up of elements of many of those books.

Many fans were (initially) disappointed. I saw the wisdom of not literally translating the series book-by-book on the screen, but doing a synthesis of the books (it would have been even better if they had made three movies instead of just one, as they could have taken plot elements that are repeated over the series and made three good stories from them).

I think this is the approach that John Carter took. Did it work? I'm not sure, but I liked it enough to watch it again. And, I'll revisit it in time to see how it "grew".

You can do a complete translation of a book to the screen. The Lord of the Rings films did this, but even it took compromises (dropping Tom Bombadil, shuffling elements of The Two Towers and The Return of the King around to make the two storylines match better chronologically).

You can half-ass it. See either version of Dune, any film involving Stephen King (almost all), Philip K. Dick or Robert A. Heinlein (other than Destination Moon). "Hey, we have this property! It'll sell hotcakes! Just throw something on the screen!"

You can try to do it in a new/different medium (John Carter as a book vs. John Carter as a boardgame vs. John Carter as a comic). It may work. it may not.

Time will tell.

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