I am kind of looking forward to John Carter. "Kind of" because Disney dropped "of Mars" from the title, and the fanboys are grumbling. "Looking forward to" because I read the series when I was very young and liked them a lot. Clive James once said that good books are the ones we feel slightly guilty about reading -- an observation I come back to more and more.
What is striking about John Carter of Mars is how it practically minted a genre. Edgar Rice Burroughs' ideas have become storytelling standards, their components recycled to power Dune, Avatar, Star Wars and many more. Like Edgar Allan Poe or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, his pulp fiction is a gift that keeps on giving.
I read Dune later. (As someone else may or may not have once said, the golden age of science fiction is twelve.) I had no time for any of the sequels -- Children of... and all that crap -- but Frank Herbert's original was strange and appealing. I read it at the beach one summer so the images mingle, pleasantly, with sands I saw every day. And I liked the David Lynch movie very much. After Lynch's Dune SF movies had a choice: they could do his version of what scifi looked like, or Ridley Scott's in Bladerunner. Critics and fans hated it, but lately it has been revisited. Writes Andrew Stimpson:
Dune's closest analogue is John Boorman's Excalibur. At the time of its 1981 release a US critic, while denigrating the film as a whole, noted that "the images have a crazy integrity". It was, in effect, a greatest hits collection of Mallory's Le Morte d'Arthur: an artfully visualised series of key scenes and epic occurrences that lacked a uniting flow. The same could be said of Lynch's picture and its source novel.Dune was in development for many years by insane person Alejandro Jodorowsky:
Salvador Dali was cast as the insane Emperor of the Universe, who lived on an artificial planet built from gold and had a robot doppelgänger (actually conceived as a way around the real Dalí's extortionate fiscal demands for appearing in person) to keep people guessing, fearfully, which one they were dealing with. He accepted the part with apparent glee, his only demand being that the Emperor's throne must be a toilet made from intersected dolphins, the tails forming the feet and the mouths to receive piss and shit separately.Nowadays, of course, that would all be done in CGI.
Jodorowsky's mad-as-fuck version was never made -- all the artists, including writer Dan O'Bannon, ended up working on another little film called Alien -- but you want the flavour of what it would have been like -- and you know you do -- watch Santa Sangre or The Holy Mountain.
PS: Not-a-prequel Prometheus viral marketing starts here. (Milk and cookies keep you awake?)
PPS: The Hollywood Reporter says John Carter is not so bad.