Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Getting excited for John Carter.

I read the first of the Barsoom books about 3 years ago. I regret to admit I've yet to journey back to that world. I do not know why. It was a short book, packed with story, action, adventure and all that sort of thing, but it took me a really long time to read it. I never got into ERB's prose style. I had the same problem with Tarzan, and to a lesser extent with some of REH and Lin Carter's very ERB-Esq writings. The story though was great. I enjoyed every minute of the reading process. Sure I had my problems with the book. It is woefully out of date. The setting of Mars is of course preposterous now even as it was at the time ERB was writing it. The same problem befalls the Eric John Stark books of Leigh Brackett, C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy and countless other books which take place on the Moon or Mars or Venus. The book doesn't leave you a lot of time to really dwell on this though. The planet itself might as well be Alderan or Arrakis. It's completely alien and though dying, still teeming with persistent, pugnacious and strange life forms.

If you haven't read the book, I don't know if I would recommend it at this point. Obviously for any serious Fantasy, Sword and Planet or Sword and Sorcery fan it's a must read just as DUNE and the LORD OF THE RINGS and the HOUR OF THE DRAGON are. ERB's John Carter brand is stamped across all of these genres. Inescapable even if you don't know you are seeing it. This is the problem that is arising now, with people accusing John Carter of "Ripping off" Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clone's Arena of Death scene. It's no slight against Star Wars for it to have been created as an homage to creations of earlier writers and filmmakers. That's why Star Wars is perhaps one of the most important American films ever made. . Star Wars wears it's Wild West, Far East, Anti-Fascist, American Revolution, Civil Rights era Multi-cultural Melting pot thesis clearly on it's sleeve. But without ERB, Leigh Brackett, Frank Herbert, and others, Star Wars wouldn't exist. It's really not possible to stress this enough. Despite all of it's flaws, I recently saw the new 3D re-release of Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, and even though Jar Jar was just as annoying as ever, and the cast was just as wooden as ever.. I had a hell of a lot of fun. I had forgotten how much FUN Star Wars was. It got me extremely excited for John Carter.

Over the last two weeks a lot has been happening in my life. I cannot wait to be transported to Mars along with John Carter and do battle alongside Woola and Tars Tarkas. I need a Vacation, and I hear Mars is nice this time of year.

Monday, February 6, 2012


Yep, This is my 300th update.

It's also going to be a chance for me to vent about a recent story I was told. You will understand the serendipity of this in a second.

Recently, an online professor, posted a "Discussion" topic on his forum. In it he argued, with apparent sincerity, that the film '300', based on the Frank Miller comic book, was an accurate portrayal of ancient Sparta, bottomless pits and all. Which one can suppose also means that the Persians really did have horrible goat headed, flute playing, monsters and that Xerxes really was a 9 foot tall transvestite.

I was astounded by this assertion, that some one who has multiple PhD's would make such a statement. Clearly he realizes that '300' is an effort of creative storytelling on the part of Dilios (David Wenham) to exult his fellow Spartans and assorted Greek allies to greater feats of glory on the eve of the battle of Platea? It should be clear to anyone with a half functional brain that what the character Dilios is engaging in is a fish-tale. He is exaggerating the size, composition and martial prowess of not only the Spartans who took place at the battle of Thermopylae, but also of their Persian foes.

I will freely admit that I don't actually know much about the ancient Greek city states, but I'm relatively sure that if this film had been 100% factual, not quite as many people would have been so dead set on destroying it's reputation. Perhaps he is correct and there are a few historically correct details, but I certainly would never extrapolate that out to say the entire movie is a valid representation. '300', along with films such as Braveheart and Gladiator, are designed with entertainment first and foremost. They are the modern day equivalent of Shakespeare's Histories. They take historical details, and then form them around the key plot that already exists. They aren't meant to be taken as serious scholarship, and, while it has merit to be used in a composition or literature class, certainly shouldn't be used in a History class.