“John Carter” Review, Part 2

The ravishingly beautiful Lynn Collins, in the role of Dejah Thoris — fighter, princess, and scientist extraordinaire.

In fact, there are quite a few changes made from the book that I appreciate. As I understand it, Carter was sent off to Mars in the books by some vague form of astral projection, whereas the movie gets him there by letting him find an alien device in the right place at the right time. Much easier to grasp, and it seems more plausible in its execution.

The character development was also exceptional, and I loved the updates everyone received. Everyone feels more…well, human. Dejah Thoris, a beautiful princess and Carter’s eventual love interest, is now also an accomplished scientist and a talented warrior. Actress Lynn Collins brings the princess to life and makes the character entirely her own, showing her as a strong and dedicated woman with heartfelt moments of vulnerability. Taylor Kitsch plays Carter with restraint and dark charisma. He is the loner who believes in more than he thinks he does, a man who wants to make up for past mistakes and find a higher cause than gold prospecting. Willem Dafoe excels as the voice actor for Tars Tarkas, a green Martian warrior who is by turns enthusiastic, desperate, funny, and committed to protecting the people he cares for.

And I was fascinated with their decision to have Carter tell his story to a fictional version of young Edgar Rice Burroughs, thereby inspiring him to become a writer and giving Burroughs an intriguing role in the story’s climax. Given the changes made to the storyline of A Princess of Mars and integrating elements from the next book, The Gods of Mars, Burroughs’s presence in the story actually works by tying together what could easily have been a lackluster, uninspiring resolution.

A note to fans of the books: though I loved the film’s changes, I mean no disrespect to Mr. Burroughs. Like Tarzan, his most popular work, his Martian story is still one of the must-read works of fiction from the early 20th century. And another of his books, The Land that Time Forgot, helped inspire me to become a writer. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without Edgar Rice Burroughs.

What shocked me most was the emotional involvement I had toward the story unfolding onscreen. When we discover Carter’s tragic past and see him resolve to protect others, or see Dejah on the edge of tears with no idea of what she should do to save her people, it struck me in a way I never expected. Other movies with deep characters have impressed me, but I am still in the early stages of learning how to involve myself in their lives. Normally, I still watch those people struggle through the story from on high, removed but curious, like a kid watching someone else fry ants with a magnifying glass.

By the time this movie finished, John Carter and Dejah Thoris were my friends. I was with them, on Mars, feeling what they felt. I still can’t explain how it happened, and it is probably just me who felt that sort of connection. All I know is that John Carter had me caring for these two people as surely as if they were family.

The supporting cast is extremely talented, even if some of them don’t get enough material — Bryan Cranston, Ciaran Hinds, Dominic West, Thomas Hayden Church, Mark Strong, and many others help show the unfathomable talent and love that went into producing this movie.

When it comes to spectacle, the special effects and musical score are unparalleled. CGI and the emotionally potent music are used to supplement the story and enhance its epic scope, instead of distracting from some inherent emptiness.

Does the movie have its flaws? Sure, but I hardly noticed them. Yes, the adventures of Carter are often “silly,” and it hardly ever gets its science right. That’s not the point. I don’t see how these complaints should be brought up again, when the movie (like the book) is meant to give us adventure and wonder, and stoke the fires of imagination. In my honest opinion, it is one of the best answers we have ever gotten to that favorite question of science fiction and fantasy writers: “What if?”

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More Visual and Verbal Inspiration

This post is especially for all those artists, poets, writers, songwriters, and people who just needs a break from the world.

I decided to throw a couple more writing/creative prompts at you. Or maybe I’m just getting lazy. Or distracted. Or something. In any event, I hope you get inspired by these, somehow. Have a great day, everyone!

Visual

 

 

Verbal

1. The first line of dialogue is, “You’re a little creepy, you know?”

2. How creatively can you or your character swear?

3. You see a crossbow on the nearest table. How do you react?

4.Write or draw the ending of your project/story/song/poem. Now write/draw the exact opposite. What if you included that instead? Does that work, or not?

5.Your location is the Tower of London. Now, go wild and do whatever you want.

Pikes Peak Writers Conference: Coming Up Fast

Well, as I have stated before, the Pikes Peak Writers Conference is coming up fast. Slightly under two weeks until we are there. Right now, it costs about $450, but I’m passing along the word that it’s one of the top ten writers conferences in the country, and is the friendliest overall. Seriously, a Marriott with a great view of Pikes Peak, you’re surrounded by professionals – writers and agents and editors with years of experience – and quality dining and service from the hotel. What’s not to love about that idea?

There’s still time to register. If you are a writer who wants to expand their career, make connections in the business, and meet with hundreds of other writers, this is the place to be.

With people like Robert Crais, Jeffrey Deaver, Donald Maass, Susan Wiggs, Kevin J. Anderson, Bree Ervin, Ronald Cree, Angel Smits, etc., there will be hundreds of fellow writers, either going for the first time to give their professional careers a shot of adrenaline, or returning veterans who have stayed with the conference since it was formed twenty years ago. And you will be hard-pressed to find a more pleasant city to hold an event like this.

Hope to see you there!

Why I Picked Traditional Publishing

Ah, yes, the old chestnut of self-publishing vs. traditional. As if nobody was blogging about this before…

Authors are presented with a lot of options these days, when they want to get published. That’s not news to you. You already know the Kindle, and other outlets like PubIt! (for Barnes and Noble’s Nook) and Createspace have made it possible for a writer to share his novel with the world, within hours after the last word has been typed. Indie publishers who take the misfit works of writers who can’t find a wide audience, self e-publishing, and print-on-demand are seeing an all-time high, and many writers celebrate the new wave of author-focused publishing opportunities that slice away the middle men and let a novel’s creator make their own road to success.

In the wake of the digital era, more than a few bloggers have asked, “Why are some people sticking with traditional publishing, the plodding mastodons of a bygone era that surely must bow to the march of progress? Is it because old habits die hard? Is it because the writers are too insecure to take responsibility for publishing the work themselves? Is it because those publishing mastodons, carrying the nametags of Alfred A. Knopf and Tor and Random House and HarperCollins, still hold a lot of the prestige and reputation writers crave? Is it because they want those corporate fat cats to take most of their hard-earned money?”

In my honest opinion, the answer is a little more complicated. It’s not enough to say that “greed” or “giant corporations” are the reasons why writers now flock to Kindle or smaller publishing firms.

God knows that greed and the sometimes unfair policies and practices of publishers contribute to the problem, though. Several authors I know have been unfairly marginalized, neglected, or even cheated on by the publishers that were supposed to help the author market their work and give them a certain cut of the profits. They have decided that self-publishing is much less aggravating, and gives them far more control over the books and stories they sell. And I wish them the greatest success. Forget the numbers and the “odds” against self-publishing getting them fame and fortune. I want them to get so lucky, it’s as if they grabbed the finest pot of gold a leprechaun ever put at the base of a rainbow.

But there have also been a lot of self-publishers who might have given up on traditional publishing too soon.

See that statement I made up there, that the new trends in book publishing are author-focused? That’s truer than you might know. When writers talk amongst themselves, it’s easy to forget that books are not just marketable products that help spread our names to the farthest reaches of Amazon. And it’s easy to forget that it’s not even about us, the writers. It’s about the readers. Writers, in effect, serve anyone who finds and treasures their words. You give their imaginations and minds a chance to expand, to thrill, to love or hate. Those might be your words, in your novel, but you’re giving the reader an experience. With every new page they turn comes a new chance to enrich their lives, or simply to make their day.

We also have to consider the aversion to risk and difficulty. We don’t like putting our precious work up to the judgment of a large entity (like a publishing house) that doesn’t care about it like we care. And sometimes that drives people to self-publishing. At least your work is guaranteed to reach the world if you e-publish it yourself. But is risk and difficulty always a bad thing? Doesn’t it do a novel good when it’s edited by people who have been editing novels for decades? Sure, it’s your feet that are being put to the fire. The same can be said for every writer. This is a part of the job if you want to be traditionally published: killing your ego, to make sure the reader finds your book in its best possible state.

[To be continued…]