Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Heaping Pile of Awesome

The wife got back safe and sound Thursday night, and my single parent duties have ended (well...until next week when she one again has to jetset off to the East Coast), but I took a couple days for myself and left the blogging on the back-burner. Caught up on some sleep, reread Al-Qadim (found even more I liked) as well as found a new, incredibly kick-ass reality TV show in the form of Full Metal Jousting (which actually kicked sleep's ass for awhile as I had to stay up till 2am watching back episodes last night).

I would dearly like to write more about AQ and FMJ (and hopefully will sometime in the next couple days), but I can't, as I just spent the afternoon at the Cinnebarre movie theater (no relation to the RPG) in Mountlake Terrace, drinking Guinness and watching John Carter of Mars in 3-D.

I'm going to go ahead and call it one of the all-time best fantasy-SciFi films I've ever seen. Definitely in the Top 10, quite possibly Top 5.

As others have written, the marketing for this film really didn't do it justice. I was not terribly impressed with the previews I'd seen, and I'm fairly nit-picky with films. This one? Really not much to pick at all.

Now, I should probably say up-front that I've never read Burroughs (sorry, folks, I have a large backlog of reading material I'm trying to catch up on...ERB is scheduled for around 2014 or 2015). As a consequence, I can't say how true to the book the film is.

However, I HAVE read a lot of other later imitators of Burroughs's John Carter character, including John Norman, Michael Moorcock, and S.M. Stirling. Of the bunch, the character portrayed on the screen...and the story narrated in the film...blew away anything I've read from others and certainly exceeded any expectations I had on this film. It was simply fascinating to see how much of the plot had been borrowed for other fantasy stories over the years. And yet JCM's story felt felt original (as in "the originator") rather than a pastiche of the films that have stolen from it.

What can I say? Sometimes Disney gets it right (like with Dragonslayer or that first Pirates of the Caribbean film); certainly Pixar are the #1 guys doing this CGI stuff (the six-armed aliens might as well have been animatronics. Or real aliens, I guess. Best CGI acting I can recall seeing). But the other film stuff...acting, pacing, art direction...great, great work. Perhaps not as spectacular as Avatar, JCM was still a damn sight better than that film.

And I prefer a better film to a better spectacle anyway.

Airships and pseudo-steampunk tech, weird cultures and traditions...with no heavy handed exposition needed to explain what the f is going on, may I add. As with Whedon's Firefly, the filmmakers just created a world, invited the audience in, and figured you were smart enough to figure stuff out (fortunately, it's a bit simpler than Firefly so it's pretty easy to grok in a single two hour movie).

And what a world! I think my favorite part was the panoramic views of Mars. Holy smokes...I never wanted to set an RPG on Mars so bad! Made me consider scratching my Arabian Nights setting for something a little more out-o-this world. Where's the Barsoom campaign setting for Labyrinth Lord, huh? Come on now! You OSR folks are going to leave me to cannibalize that Savage Worlds Mars book? Please don't do that!

All right, now I'm just raving. Suffice is to say I liked it a lot. My buddy Steve-O (who accompanied me) is a bit of a SciFi connoisseur (or at least and aficionado), and HE thought it was a heaping pile of awesome. Said he wanted a sequel. Of course, he hasn't read Burroughs either.

Point is, it was a great film. Certainly a Disney flick I'd want my child to see (when he's a little older, that is).
: )

***EDIT: Oh, just found this little gem for folks interested in old school fantasy role-playing on Barsoom. Check it's exactly what I was looking for!***


  1. This is great to hear. I was kinda worried that someone who hadn't read the books might be a little lost (there's a lot of jeddaks and tharks and whatnot being tossed around). Glad to hear you enjoyed it as much as I did. :D

  2. Interesting to hear a positive report of that film! I'd not looked into it at all, assuming it'd be the usual blockbuster crap. Might have to see it now...

  3. I just got back from the theater with my wife an hour or so ago. We also loved it. I've read about half of the first book, so had an idea what's going on. My wife had no idea. After the movie, when I told her there were eight or nine movies in the series, she immediately said, "I want to read them all!" And that speaks volumes on the quality of the movie in my mind.

  4. I saw the movie a few days ago, and thought it was great! I am a reader of the books, loved them. Going to start rereading them soon.

    As for making a game based on Mars, trust me I have looked over several things and I don't really like any of them. I have my own ideas brewing in my head and might try to release something. Of course now there will be many many more people who will try and do the same thing. Not really an issue, but dang, wish I had gotten it out first.

    Sorry this turned into a bit of a rant.


    Check it out this guy's been working on an OSR Barsoon inspired rpg for a bit now. He's saying sometime soon for release if all goes well.

    By the way A Princess of Mars is worth the read.

  6. I loved the film as well. I'd read the first book, and I thought the decisions they made as far as mostly in the first 20 minutes of the film were well thought out and improved it for the screen. I never said to myself while watching it a.) Wow that's cheese-ball b.) I would have treated that aspect of the character differently c.) What were they thinking doing this? any of the usual Hollywood drivel decisions when adapting an original work. They treated the material with respect. I felt at times like I was watching a cleaned up version of Lynch's Dune. A lot of times I leaned over to my son and said, "wow, this is a great movie". I haven't done that in YEARS for an adapted screenplay. Kudos to the writers, set designers, costume designers, all around; the best movie I've seen this year hands down - if not the best of the past few years.

  7. I enjoyed and borrowed from THE GEM above,
    send me your snail mail address
    (I will not share)

    and a copy of my barsoom RPG
    (76 pages of text)
    is yours . ..

  8. I caught the film today and found it entertaining. It was loyal in spirit and didn't have a single WTF moment like recent treatments of The Musketeers or Sherlock Holmes. My only complaint was one of the coolest fighting scenes was intermingled with character building flashbacks. It was certainly far more loyal to Mars sories than were the vast array of Tarzan films.

  9. I actually tore it apart over at Tankards & Broadswords. I'm by no means an ERB fanboy, but rather, I loathe when Hollywood takes ideas that have stood the test of time, alters them for no needful reason, and then wastes screentime having to explain the new, more complicated plot, and in the process, wastes time that could be spent on more badassery.

  10. Hey thanks JB. And great link to the Barsoomian gaming. Gotta see John Carter asap--thanks for the heads up. And very glad to hear your family is back together safe and sound. Believe me I know what pulling double duty as Dad is all about ; ) My wife began working just this past year and I've had to step up quite a bit myself.

  11. @ All: Thanks for the kind words, folks.

    A recent story on NPR said that JCM is looking to be a big time box-office FLOP, due in no small part to the main character being the protagonist of a book published ALMOST 100 YEARS AGO...certainly it doesn't have the same "pop-draw" as Twilight or The Hunger Games, but jeez even that horrendous piece-o-shite Clash of the Titans re-make got a sequel. I guess I am VERY out-o-touch with the mainstream.

  12. Thanks for the plug for my site! Doc did a great job with those Barsoom rules; I jazzdd them up a bit and added 1 or 2 things. I also have OD&D Age of Conan booklets over there...

    1. @ Grey:

      It's good stuff man! Thanks for offering it to the the general public!