The informational Rings of Barsoom.
So my daughter and I were watching Fellowship of the Ring last night. I had to get a copy from the library because I only have the extended editions which are something like 5 1/2 hours long each. Julia’s 14 and she’s a reader, but she hasn’t read any of the Lord of the Rings stuff. By the time Gandolf has decided to go see Sauruman (sp ? ) she’s basically said ‘okay okay stop the movie, what the hell’s going on ?’ So I have to explain that Saurumen is Gandalf’s boss and he has this magic ball and through it the bad guy Sauron ( the names sure don’t help) has got into his head and now he’s is all bad bad bad. It was at that point that I remembered my first viewing of the movie, and my not knowing what’s going on either. And I had read the books more than once. I was even working on a mural for a restaurant called The House at Bag End, and yet, in the context of watching the movie I was just as lost as Julia.
I have to mention she is fully watching the movie, she’s not ‘texting and sort of watching the movie’. This is a kid that went out on bought her own copy of ‘Inception’. She actually does pay attention to movies.
So later on in the movie when Frodo is looking in the magic water mirror and Galadrial says ‘I shall now diminish to the west’…. I realize that to some degree the Lord of the Rings movies only work because the books are so well known. If you haven’t read the books you can only guess what that means but you really don’t know, and the movie is full of these kinds of references. The high production values excellent set pieces and truly wonderful characters pull it through – but I honestly feel it doesn’t fully stand on its own. It’s too referential back to the text
Now getting to what you always knew I was talk about – JOHN CARTER OF MARS – I was always a Mars guy in high school, I only read Lord of the Rings when the animated movie was on the way. Quite honestly hobbits had nothing on Dejah Thoris and tharks for me. I have an appreciation of Lord of the Rings, both the books and movies, but I don’t love them the way I love Barsoom. So naturally I’m thinking about John Carter while we’re watching Rings. John Carter has three prologues( no, I’ll call it 2 once we’re with Carter in the wild west the movie is on ) that probably cover 20 minutes on screen. Rings has a something like 45 minute prologue followed by many conversations referring to the past throughout the rest of the movie. John Carter has a fraction the number of characters, no history lessons, and once we leave the thark camp, the movie’s pretty much peddle to the metal straight through.
Of course we all know one of the criticisms leveled John Carter was ‘too many names ! I can’t remember the names !’ But you don’t need to catch the names to know what’s going on. There’s a battle between some ships, one has a red flag one has a blue. This spacey godlike bald guy gives the obviously bad guy I really cool weapon. What more do we need to know ? This would work in mime …
And mentioning mime, as much as I love William Defoe and that great zoom into Barsoom. I’d like to see a director’s cut that fixes this whole opening. Telling us about Helium and Zodanga was nuts . I have to mention that as soon as you see Sab Than’s ship going through the red dust, the music starts up and Helium attacks – I was in Barsoomian heaven, I just love that. Sadly at all and when the Therns arrive.
You don’t need the narration, you don’t need all the names, you just need to watch – aw hell , it would work in silent movie form with no more than three dialogue cards. Make it part of the titles . You don’t need it explained, you just need to watch.
Anyways, getting back on track, despite some of my issues with how the information is parsed out in John Carter, I have to say all of the information that you need to know is there. It’s so there, I’m suggesting that portions don’t even need dialogue.
Lord of the Rings the movie will always succeed in relation to the book, and I don’t see any immediate readership dropping on the book. And it’s a geek thing, the kind if thing you just dig into deeper if you want to, there’s lumps and lumps of material.
But John Carter works completely on it’s own, you don’t need to know anything about Barsoom follow this movie. If you want more, there’s 11 books but it stands on its own. I’m torn on this, everything you need to know is in the John Carter movie, it’s not that hard to follow but on the other hand, people got stuck on the names, and they didn’t need to. I don’t have any real conclusions here other that that, but perhaps I’ll take the time storyboard out how I think that opening might have worked… -Jeff