While the upcoming John Carter of Mars film has been described as an adaptation of the first novel only, the appearance in the cast list of the character Matai Shang, ruler of the godlike Therns suggests otherwise, as Shang and his merry band of Therns dont show up until the second and third novels. And the Civil War colonel who comes into conflict with Carter corresponds to nothing in the books whatsoever.
I fear that the faithful movie adaptation that fans have spent nearly a hundred years waiting for (admittedly treating fans as a collective of variable composition) is not on the way.
But wait, it gets worse. Actor interviews (see here and here) reveal that the Therns are beings like Olympian gods who travel round keeping order in the Universe (they do no such thing in the books) and that the aforementioned Matai Shang (a fairly minor character in the books its his daughter Phaidor whos important) will be John Carters nemesis and a shapeshifter who can adapt into anything.
Talk about missing the point! The whole idea of the Therns is that theyre false gods theyre just ordinary human beings who have set themselves up as gods. Giving them supernatural powers of shapeshifting and starhopping defeats their literary purpose. Burroughs structured Barsoomian society so that the religion of the red and green Martians would be a hoax perpetrated by the white Martians (i.e., the Therns), the religion of the white Martians would be a hoax perpetrated by the black Martians, and the religion of the black Martians would in turn be a hoax perpetrated by their own rulers. (Burroughs, as you may have guessed by now, was not a fan of religion; see also Savage Pellucidar and The Return of Tarzan.) If the Therns are now going to have magical powers, or be aliens with more advanced technology, or whatever it is thats being planned here, then the story that Burroughs actually wrote is evidently being fairly thoroughly jettisoned.
My enthusiasm for this movie is rapidly dropping.
As I said in your last mention of this movie, directors and producers can’t seem to keep themselves from meddling in basic elements of stories they bring to the screen. For instance, if the green Martians will be done in CGI, why can’t they be 12 feet tall instead of 9 feet as Mr. Dafoe seems to think they’ll be? Let alone the massive changes to the plot that look to be in store.
Those books are the perfect size for movies – tinkering with the storyline is just unnecessary! There was plenty of cliffhanger suspense and fighting in them already.
I guess it’s time to find my old stash of novels and re-read them all. Just look on the bright side, Roderick – with movie prices so high these days, we will save a lot of money not going to these bastardizations.
Yeah, except there’s no way I’m not going to go ….
There seems to be some rule that movie adaptations of books have to have some or many deviations from the source material, and the director gets bonus points the more absurd the deviation.
Frequently, that seems to be exactly right. But not always. Two of my favorite examples: (1) Harold Pinter’s script for The Last Tycoon uses the material from Fitzgerald’s unfinished novel very effectively, incorporating what Fitzgerald actually wrote while avoiding the over-the-top melodramatic ending Fitzgerald envisioned. The film is much better than the book Fitzgerald had in mind. (2) The film version of Remains of the Day tracks the book version very closely, but subtly shifts the focus of the story from politics (still very much in view) to the relationship between the characters played by Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. The film isn’t better than the book, but it’s not worse either.
In general, I despise directors’ willingness to ignore their source material, but I guess there are always exceptions.
I did not see the movie version of Gone with the Wind until after I had read the book. I found the movie disappointing, because it broke — no, it stomped on — one of the book’s major plot points: the inability of either Rhett or Scarlett to express their true feelings for each other. At one point in the movie Rhett tells Scarlett he loves her, which never once happened in the book, although it was obvious to readers that he felt that way. The whole point of the book is that neither of them can admit it out loud until Scarlett does so at the end — and by then Rhett tells her he no longer gives a damn.
When that happened in the movie I wanted to stop watching and throw the tape in the garbage. But it was a very small deviation in a four hour flick. It detracted from the movie, but the changes in The Remains of the Day helped the story in my view. I did not enjoy the book as much as the movie. As I recall I disagreed with all of the politics in both, but the book was worse. TROTD is my favourite Merchant-Ivory Ruth Prawer Jhabvala flick.
Discouraging, to say the least. Reading these books as a kid in the 70’s, I couldn’t wait for them to become a movie – and now that it’s happening I find myself almost wishing that it wouldn’t….
Another great example of Burroughs’ disdain for religion can be found in book six: The Mastermind of Mars’ “The Great Tur”, reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz…
A funny passage from Return of Tarzan, where Jane has been captured by the Oparians:
Elsewhere in the same book, the high priestess La tells Tarzan:
(Oddly, however, when Burroughs returned to this milieu a few books later in Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar, La has inexplicably been transformed into a sincere religious zealot.)
In the interest of furthing intelligent and heartfelt discussion of all things Barsoom, please stop by:
Umm… “furthering” rather.
If this can soothe your disappointment, your post got me interested in the book.
The Afterlife of Samuel Johnson by Boswell’s ghost.