July 15th, 2011

Star Wars - Fly away...

Red Beauty, in books and -- soon -- on film

Mars is, to me, always beautiful.

I've pictured Mars a lot. Seen it: I remember it being a somewhat more assertive reddish dot in the eastern sky back in summer 2003, when it went from always reddish to aggressively so. It's alien in a way that's easier to handle than, say, Venus, where the air can crush you. It's easier to imagine people going to Mars, and since I'm a child of "let's explore space!"-themed science fiction, I want to imagine going there.

How it look me until the late 1990s to finally read one of the great pieces of science fiction literature about the Red Planet, A Princess of Mars, I know not. But read it I did, and I was impressed with the lusty, violent, and just BIG work of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Some years later, summer 2004, I read Burroughs's first Tarzan novel, and was surprisingly (for me) not all that impressed -- the book seemed to pull off the unique feat of being both lazily written and overwritten. (I'd started reading fellow pulp-er Robert E. Howard soon before, and I connected MUCH more easily to his dramatic writing -- NOT, in my opinion, lazy at all.) I knew that Burroughs, as Harlan Ellison had once described him, "was, in the best sense of the word, a consummate hack": that he wrote quickly and boldly and grab-you-ly -- yes, tired mind, I'll let you think up things like "grab-you-ly" for now -- but that particular novel did not make me want to dry more of his Tarzan books. I will read more of his John Carter of Mars books.

It's good these books can be read, because it's taken on-and-off effort since the 1930s to finally, finally, FINALLY do a big screen adaptation of this big tale -- with Finding Nemo's Andrew Stanton directing, Stanton, Mark Andrews and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon writing what will be the first of three films. More love for Mars, particularly appropriate now with the increased presence of science probes at the planet learning the facts about the red planet, beyond the "wouldn't it be cool if..." imaginings of writers and artists who could go to Mars for free.

I want to see another vision of Mars, beyond the vision of it I'd gotten 20 years ago with the cheesy but fun Total Recall. By the way, for fuller disclosure, I'll admit that the Mars I pictured while reading A Princess of Mars was kind of influenced by the look of Total Recall. I should've tried harder to imagine it some different, more "me" way. I didn't imagine it as the American West-influenced view that Stanton and his crew have brought to this production, but I can respect that view of it. (In fact I'm flashing on the time several years ago when Harry Knowles at Ain't It Cool News got to visit Monument Valley, Utah, for an outdoor screening of Once Upon a Time in the West, and was impressed that parts of the valley had not only yet to be shown properly in films, but looked nicely alien and would "fit" as a film version of Mars. He was involved at the time with an attempt to film A Princess of Mars.)

The point is, it looks appropriately big.

Taking up the mantra I had in 2009 for first Star Trek and then Avatar, please be good, please be good...