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Re: [barsoom] ERBzine: ~ PM Treatment ~

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  • Den Valdron
    ... I ve read Mr. (Ms?) Marking s treatment with great interest. Unfortunately, I think that there are a number of areas where it goes astray. Since I
    Message 1 of 4 , Feb 1, 2008
      > ====================
      > FEATURE 4: ERBzine 2111
      > ====================
      > Edgar Rice Burroughs'
      > by TMarking
      > http://www.erbzine.com/mag21/2111.html

      I've read Mr. (Ms?) Marking's treatment with great
      interest. Unfortunately, I think that there are a
      number of areas where it goes astray. Since I
      obviously have nothing better to do with my life, I
      thought I'd take a few minutes out and run through
      some my criciticisms.

      >Some of the weaknesses in the original novel will
      have to be addressed for today’s more sophisticated
      (or perhaps jaded) audience.

      >To begin with, there is Burroughs’ rather limited
      >explanation of exactly How and Why Carter came to be
      >on Mars in the first place. The astral projection
      >angle won’t cut it for today’s audience. It would
      >have to be re-conceived.

      With all due respect, why not? Or at the very least,
      not much needs be done with it. Basically, we've had
      well over a decade through Stargate SG1, Sliders, and
      the new Flash Gordon series of people stepping from
      this world to other worlds or dimensions. Stepping
      across the universe sans Starship is old hat by now.

      What it needs is a bit of tarting up. It's not that
      the audience is sophisticated, its that its easily
      bored. Carter's paralysis and internal struggle to
      break free which finally wrenches him from his own
      body is gripping on a page, but visually, its a guy
      laying there with the whites of his eyes showing. I
      suspect that the Hollywood version would involve
      physical action, and a nifty transporter/wormhole

      >The movie version makes it clear that it is no
      >accident that Carter is on Mars.

      I think that this is a mistake. The notion that
      everything has to have a reason, and every reason has
      to have an effect, is a legacy of sci fi films of the
      50's. Cloverfield, most recently, had no explanation
      - monster is there, deal with it. The recent 30 Days
      of Night presented no backstory or explanation - the
      Vampires show up, deal with it. Going all the way
      back to Night of the Living Dead... the zombies are
      there, deal with it.

      What do we learn from this? The audience is forging.
      They will go along with a situation if it is presented
      as authentic, if the characters actions and reactions
      are authentic.

      Essentially, what we do with a novel or a movie, is we
      are selling suspension of disbelief. We are selling
      believability, and selling it on a visceral, emotional
      basis. A good novel or movie makes us forget where we
      are and it puts us there. A bad one, we never step
      out of ourselves.

      There are several ways to do the suspension of
      disbelief shtick.

      One way is basically media res - present the situation
      and character, and just start the proceedings, and if
      they're engaging the audience goes along for the ride
      (this approach would have Carter on Mars hacking his
      way through a glorious landscape and leave us watching
      to find out what his story is and what the hell its
      all about)

      Another approach is to engage us with the character in
      a relatively normal setting, and as he is drawn into
      strange adventures, because of our attachment, we're
      drawn with him. (We start as Burroughs did, with John
      Carter as a cowboy who gets into trouble...)

      Yet another approach would be simply explaining the
      story to the audience, rationalizing it for us. This
      can work. The title crawl in the original Star Wars,
      various preamable voice overs. The technobabble of
      Stargate, etc. The idea is that if the situation can
      be explained to us plausibly and rationally, we'll
      have a context to fit subsequent events into, and then
      we'll follow along. Of all the possible avenues, this
      is my least favourite for a few reasons: 1) It's
      dull. 2) By engaging the viewer immediately on
      plausibility and rationality, you are dealing with
      them on a non-emotional, non-experiential,
      non-visceral level and that makes it much easier for
      them to reject suspension. 3) It blows a lot of
      opportunities for dramatic tension... its like
      starting off a mystery by having the Butler do it on
      the first page...okay, what then?

      >Carter was brought to Mars for a purpose. A purpose
      >that our franchise hero will learn as he swashbuckles
      >his way through the first three movies...

      >This new explanation also gives us an opportunity to
      >build some backstory and subplots into the
      >franchise’s initial storyline... (Note: See >separate
      “Machinations” document for details.)

      I have no objection to building in backstory and
      subplots. But I have to post a reservation. If
      Carter was brought to Mars for a purpose, then he is a
      puppet and not a hero. That's risky.

      >• Beef up the role of DEJAH THORIS for the modern
      audience. She might still wear a teeny weeny metal
      bikini but this Princess is not the stereotypical
      damsel in distress.

      Arguably, Thoris wore much less than a bikini. But
      she was hardly the stereotypical damsel. In the
      opening scenes, she's the leader of a science
      expedition. Captured and held hostage, she doesn't
      give the Tharks an inch but appeals to their reason
      and dignity... no cowering, no shrieking. She doesn't
      bend her dignity for anyone, a prisoner among the
      Thark she's prepared to give her one potential ally
      John, the cold shoulder. She plots and plans her
      escape with John carefully.

      The trouble with Thoris is that at a certain point,
      she all but vanishes from the story, its about John
      trying to make his way to her against all odds. And
      then when we find her, she's wrapped up in the rules
      of her culture ... Dejah's struggle or issue here in
      the second phase of her story in the novel is the
      struggle of personal desires (love for John) with
      social obligations (martian custom, the need to save
      her city). I'd argue that this was powerful decades
      ago when social rules were much more restrictive for
      women. Is it powerful or current now? Could Dejah's
      dilemna be considered meaningful. Maybe.

      >• THE THARKS are the real stars of the movie. CG will
      >allow the four-armed green giants to be fully
      >realized as never before possible. The movie will
      >explore the Tharks and their barbaric culture as the
      >original books never did.

      Huh? Burroughs went into anthropological level of
      detail on the Tharks. He showed us their lives, their
      division of labour, egg laying and child rearing
      practices, manufacturing, crafts, their politics and
      political and social organization, sex roles,
      entertainment, war and peace. The Tharks were the
      most thoroughly realized alien culture of their age,
      it would be decades before other writers got that
      detailed about their creations.

      >Carter’s experiences in the Arizona Cave were
      re->worked as well as the entire “Return to Earth”
      >Ending. (The franchise hero is not going back to
      >Earth.) Carter’s Visit to the Atmosphere Factory
      >(Though the Factory returns as a location in a later
      >draft) and his climatic last gasp heroics don’t make
      >it either.

      I dunno. While I could see throwing out the return to
      Earth in favour of a happy ending, I think we need to
      keep in mind why Burroughs had it at all.

      These days in television, we're too used to the
      situation being returned to the status quo at the end
      of half an hour or an hour. That's not what happens

      Rather, its a TRAGIC ending. John Carter is a man who
      spends much of the book falling in love and then
      fighting for that love, who finally wins love and
      happiness... and in the end, he loses it all. He
      winds up on Earth, a hundred million miles from the
      woman he loves, waking each day to know he'll never
      see her again, not even knowing if she's alive.
      Forget about closure.

      Of course, for movies, audiences love happy endings,
      so we'll have to close out on their clinch, not a

      >The first draft came in at a Six-Hour Movie.

      >(Or Two Movies! The first, “John Carter of Mars” -
      >with the more commercial title to start the franchise
      >off - adapts the first half of the novel, from his
      >arrival on Mars up to his capture by the horrible
      >Warhoons! The second, “A Princess of Mars”, adapts
      >the second half of the novel and establishes Carter
      >as a franchise hero. The movies would be shot
      back-to->back Lord of the Rings-style and released in
      same >strategy as The Matrix sequels. One at Memorial
      Day, >the other at Labor... but I digress.)

      Risky. The Salkinds did that 'shooting two movies
      back to back' shtick in the 70's for Superman and
      Three Musketeers. And Tarantino split 'Kill Bill'
      into two somewhat uneven movies.

      But for the most part, studios and money people don't
      go this way. Why? Because there's no guarantee that
      the first movie will fly, and if it doesn't, then
      you've wasted your money on the second.

      That's why it's Matrix 'sequels' shot back to back.
      The original Matrix was stand alone. It was the
      success of the original movie that justified the
      subsequent sequels.

      Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter films are freak

      The normal rule is that films are expensive and
      difficult enough that the money will test the water
      with a first film, instead of committing. If it
      succeeds, fine, they'll ride the franchise until it
      dies. If it doesn't... then there is only the first
      film. Cinema is riddled with franchises that never

      >A short prologue was added to spill some Martian
      >backstory before the Apache attack.

      Leading with the chin...

      >So does anyone out there know anyone at Pixar..?

      Fraid not.


      Oh man, this stuff just kills!!! Basically, we open
      up on Mars, in a strange unfamiliar landscape, with a
      bunch of funny looking people in costumes, explaining
      their politics to each other in a long backstory.

      There's so many ways that this goes wrong. First of
      all, there's no central or sympathetic character for
      the audience to fix to. Instead there's long blather
      about politics and backstory that we may need later
      but that we don't care about now. Finally, the
      initial scenes are so jarring and alien that there's
      nothing to attach to, instead of drawn into suspension
      of disbelief we're jostled around out of it.

      It's like the WTF story scroll in Star Wars: The
      Phantom Menace, but even worse.

      Look, think about it this way: Planet of the Apes
      opens with Charlton Heston sitting in a chair, looking
      out at the night sky, reflecting on life. We've all
      sat in chairs, we've all reflected on life, we've all
      looked out at the night sky. There's an anchor there
      that we identify with, that draws us. Then it turns
      out he's on a spaceship, okay, we go along with that.
      Then they crash, etc. etc. But good opening. Suppose
      Planet of the Apes had opened with a scene of
      Gorillas, Chimps and Orangs in a committee meeting
      trying to vote on an amendment to a motion? That's

      Apart from that, its just deathly. The 'Science
      Council'? Huh? So it's Thavas that brings Carter
      from Earth? But why? Because of a prophecy... isn't
      Thavas on the science council and they're not the sort
      to go believing in that kind of crap? I dunno, the
      Therns might swallow it, but the rationalists of the
      Council won't? And why do they need a hero to settle
      what is essentially a political dispute?

      I dunno, this whole set up reduces Carter to a puppet,
      and not even an interesting puppet. If he was brought
      from Earth by the Therns and wound up bringing them
      down, he'd be interesting as a puppet rebelling
      against his evil masters. As it is, he's just Thavas
      puppet doing his job.

      It also means that Dejah knows exactly who and what
      John is, and what his role is. She knows more about
      him than he does. Awkward for the romance angle.
      Researchers don't have romances with lab rats.

      But anyway, now I've got to go and get some work done.
      Good luck...

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    • Rick Johnson
      The big problem with CGI is that it looks fake or it is overused. Remener _The Howling_? Fantastic werewolf movie. Used live action people in really good
      Message 2 of 4 , Feb 1, 2008
        The big problem with CGI is that it looks fake or it is overused.

        Remener _The Howling_?
        Fantastic werewolf movie. Used live action people in really good costumes. When I got the DVD, the interview with the director said that if they made it today, they'd have werewolves coming out of the walls and that would ruin the story.

        So we see _Underworld_ where the werewolves are crawling along the ceiling and walls?????? come off it! They are wolves, not houseflies.

        So when the Brits made _Dog Soldiers_, they knew this and dumped a lot of money on make-up and prosthetics to avoid the CGI-overuse and give the actors soemthing to work with other than a green ball on a stick as in that Sean Connery Dragon flick where the dragon keeps changing size with each scene.

        Then you get the porno _Pirates_ film which is suprisingly good... but the CGI sucks! the Stop-Motion in _Flesh Gordon_ in the 1970's was far ebtter than the CGI in _Pirates_ in the 21st century.

        So, if you use CGI Tharks, i agree that it must be done with descretion or it looks like _Mummy Returns_ where the armies number millions and you KNOW that no way could the desert support that number of secret soldiers. The CGI becomes a comedy if you have Thars as far as the eye can see just because you can and the audience wonders why such numbers havn't conquered the planet yet.

        Rick Johnson, PO Box 40451, Tucson, Az. 85717

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      • sailor.barsoom
        Just read it. Up until the arrival at Thark, it s probably the most faithful I ve read yet. Sure, there s the instant language learning gem and such, but
        Message 3 of 4 , Feb 1, 2008
          Just read it. Up until the arrival at Thark, it's probably the most
          faithful I've read yet. Sure, there's the "instant language learning
          gem" and such, but the other treatments and scripts I've read took as
          great or greater liberties.

          But then, of course, Marking just HAS to try to improve on a story
          that has remained popular for nearly one hundred years and has
          inspired much of modern science fiction. Even Superman traces his
          literary ancestry to John Carter!

          I've always said that the way to keep H-wood from ruining this is to
          put a fan in charge. But apparently that won't be enough. David
          Cortesi is a fan, it shows. But he gave us this:
          I called what happened here "mission creep." You change one thing,
          but that means you have to change something else, but then this whole
          chapter has to be axed, but then you need to write a whole new scene
          to explain...

          Marking is obviously a fan, no doubt about it. But as soon as they
          arrive at Thark, you get this whole soap opera. Why?
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