Monday, August 13, 2012

The Terribleness That Is The John Carter Novel Adaptation

Normally I'd do this up as a Dork Review piece, but really, while I want to talk about the novel adaptation of the movie John Carter I really don't want to give it the dignity of a formal review. Think of this as more of a compare and contrast between the movie, the adaptation, and the original novel it's based on, A Princess Of Mars.

Now, in case you're coming in late, I actually enjoyed John Carter, the movie. (Go here for my review of it). Was the movie high art? Hell no, but it was a fun romp and didn't deserve the savaging at the critics' hands it received. So when I was out browsing my local bookstore and saw a copy of the novel adaptation combined with the original Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, well, let's just say it was an easy decision to make.

Novel adaptations of movies can sometimes be fun. I remember enjoying the adaptation of Spaceballs when I was a kid, and the novel for The Phantom Menace, at least what I read of it while bored the one day, wasn't half bad and filled in some holes from the movie. The John Carter one however...

It's not just a bad adaptation, it's bad writing all around. It breaks from one of the basic concepts of writing, which is "show, don't tell". Okay, yes, there are times where it's more efficient or convenient to tell rather than write, I get that, but not all the time. The novel adaptation only works if you've seen the movie and doesn't offer anything extra. It should be a product to entice people to consume other products, not a dry retelling of an existing story.

I think the John Carter adaptation suffers because it's trying to ape Edgar Rice Burroughs' style, which worked a century ago but doesn't today. Now, the original book, A Princess Of Mars, is bad, don't get me wrong, but it's bad in the way I expect. It fits the time and place it was written. The female characters are passive and paper thin, the dialogue is atrocious, and the white man from Earth teaches everyone how to live. It's like an old Conan story; you know it's going to be bad but that's half of the reason you enjoy it.

The modern novel doesn't have this excuse, and the movie was rather balanced in how it portrayed characters. John Carter in the movie didn't teach the green Martians the value of friendship, he just found friends and allies amongst them.

So is there a point in all of this ranting? Well, yes. My point is directed at the people involved in producing this book, the author (which I will not name out of respect and the hope that this project was rushed and not his or her best work), the publisher, and ultimately the Disney Corporation who's ultimately responsible for the entire thing. Do better. You made a decent, fun movie. Try and produce ancillary material that at least matches that.  

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