Not that I have your attention, we can get to this week's blog.
Fall is here and before we all leap in a decaying pile of dead vegetable matter, let’s catch up on a promise I made to all of you several months ago. In case you don’t remember, let me refresh your memory. I committed to you, my loyal readers, that I would get to the bottom of the age-old question that has been troubling mankind for over half a decade. And that question is, what the hell happened with Disney’s “John Carter?” I mean, it had an established director and had enough money thrown at it to fund a small country. It’s relatively true to the source material, Edgar Rice Burroughs “Princess of Mars,” and possesses production values that dazzled the eye. Everyone obviously wanted to create something great and instead, produced a deafening thud that rivaled some of the biggest box office disasters of modern cinema. Does it deserve all of the bad press it eventually got, probably not. But I think it’s worth at least a moment of investigation as to the all-important why.
I re-read the source material and was immediately swept away to Barsoom, Mars to the uninitiated, in a very lively story that I feel, is as well-written as any pulp/fantasy novel written. The prose of tight, energetic and Carter’s narration never gets old as he relates to his adventurous new life on the angry and mysterious red planet. Now that I have your attention, we can get to this week's real discussion.
I watched the movie, for the first time, only months ago and attempt to watch it once more before committing my keyboard to an empty screen of Microsoft 365. I am sorry to report, a complete second viewing of the movie never happened. Try as I might, I just couldn’t get through it. First of all, there was entirely too much time spent in the Arizona first act. All of that could have been covered in 5 minutes. Keep in mind, I am not talking of the prologue or epilogue but only Arizona sequence. If that didn’t put the final stake into the beating heart of a great story, several other things certainly contributed. Save for all the Tharks, the cast never lived up to the characters as written by Burroughs. The story lacked pacing, and the shooting script was overlong. And, here it comes, the main reason this adaptation does not work; it’s not any fun.
Burroughs’ work is a hell of a ride. He keeps the story moving, introduces situations that are so unique and imaginative that they boggle the reader’s mind. If you keep track, it’s literally one adventure spilling into the next. The author creates a world that captures the imagination and begs for a return back for other stories. Sadly, the movie lacks any of this. It is ponderous, and, as much as I hate to say it, relies too much on the source material with absolutely no life of its own.
Keep in mind, I wanted to like this. I wanted desperately to revisit stories I had read as a young teen. About twenty minutes in, I realized not only was I not going to get back, but I might get stuck once in for all in Arizona and never get to the adopted home of John Carter and the wily cunning of the beautiful Princess Dejah Thoris.
On a positive note, if you have not done so, treat yourself to some of the animator Bob Clampett’s test footage of “John Carter” that was done in the 30s. It certainly looks like the creator of television’s “Beanie and Cecil” could have brought a much-needed sense of fun and wonder to a great work of fiction.
In 1981, J.P. Linde co-wrote and appeared in a one-man comedy show titled “Casually Insane.” Shortly after, he joined the ranks of stand-up comedy and performed in clubs and colleges throughout the United States and Canada. In 1989, he made his national television debut on “Showtime’s Comedy Club Network.” He wrote the libretto for the musical comedy “Wild Space A Go Go” and co-wrote and co-produced the feature motion picture, “Axe to Grind.” “Son of Ravage” is his second novel.