The Biggest Superhero Films That Didn't Happen, Part 2
Comic Books, Film
Tonight’s column is very short.
It could pretty much be four words…
…Go see John Carter.
It’s not just a great movie. It’s the Edgar Rice Burroughs movie that all of us that read the books have been praying for, every time we hear news of a film adaptation of one of the novels.
And if you are a Burroughs fan, that’s all the review you need. Because we Burroughs fans have had our hearts broken…
Usually with a Burroughs movie adaptation, you wonder why the hell they bought the rights at all, because the filmmakers clearly had no affection for the books.
Yeah, they changed some stuff. Dejah Thoris is a bit more of a modern lady, and there’s a brilliant rethinking of the original prologue from A Princess of Mars (I mean the one with Edgar Rice Burroughs himself reading the will of his adventurous uncle John, with his strange request about the crypt that only opens from inside.)
But the important part here? Andrew Stanton and Michael Chabon and everyone else involved understood that they needed to include the prologue with the crypt. And the Apaches. And Kantos Kan and the River Iss and Sola and even Woola the Martian dog (Woola is AWESOME, by the way.) They streamlined some things, they combined some things, they added a couple of new ideas… but it’s the book, it’s really Barsoom.
To clarify, it’s A Princess of Mars with a few bits of The Gods of Mars and Warlord of Mars folded into it.
What I’m trying to say about Disney’s John Carter is that it’s about as close to what I saw in my head, back when I was thirteen years old reading the old Ballantine editions with those amazing paintings by Gino d’Achille, as it’s possible for a movie adaptation to get. It’s the way Sherlock Holmes fans felt when they saw Jeremy Brett on television– or, closer to home, the way Marvel fans felt when they saw Alfred Molina’s Dr. Octopus fighting with Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man while Aunt May dangled from a ledge. That moment of, “Yeah. That’s what that looks like.”
If you came to John Carter and Barsoom through the comics, or maybe the Frazetta paintings, well… you’ll still love it. It’ll still feel that close.
I had a column I was kind of working on (we’ll get to it next week) about when you find that certain moment, that tipping point where you become not just interested, but a fan of something. Watching the audience tonight– hell, watching Julie, most of this was new to her and she was just transported– I am absolutely convinced that this movie is going to become that tipping point for people discovering the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Certainly, it reminded me of why I fell for them so hard, almost forty years ago. I envy those new fans the experience. Hell, they can even read them for free at Project Gutenberg if they want to, if that’s how they roll. (Not me, though– I assure you that the only way anyone gets my Frazetta hardcover editions will be from my cold dead fingers.)
…sorry, drifting. Here’s the bottom line. If you have not read the books, John Carter will nevertheless leave you feeling pleased; it’s a wonderful ride, a good time for everyone. It’s a great superhero/fantasy/romance/action movie and really brings the FUCK YEAH! moments.
But some of you media-savvy, jaded youngsters out there might be saying things like, “This is kind of cliché.” That’s when someone like me slaps you and say, “Burroughs INVENTED this cliché, you ignorant jackass. This story is a hundred years old. Those other guys? They were all ripping THIS off.”
If you love the books and have been waiting nervously for this movie, the way we all did before Bryan Singer’s X-Men and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, and then Iron Man, and Thor, and all the other movies that adapted something dear to you? You will be weeping with joy. Burroughs himself would have loved this. It was almost worth the century-long wait, to finally see an Edgar Rice Burroughs movie adaptation from someone who gets it.
Anyway. You still here? What are you waiting for? Go.
See you next week.
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