Saturday, July 16, 2011

Nerdy Rant...

What is the point of CGI? I mean really? I have no idea any more. I used to know. Like most people I was gosh wow! blown away by the visuals in many a Hollywood film and have enjoyed more than my fair share of computer animated 'kids' films from Toy Story to Megamind but today, looking at the trailer for the soon to be released John Carter (of Mars), I really began to wonder.

Here's the thing. I'm not a total Comic Book/SF/fantasy film nerd. I'm not wetting my knickers in anticipation of the Avengers movie, haven't seen either of the Iron Man films, loath everything Trekkie, and don't have lustful thoughts about Wonder Woman, Deanna Troi, Agent Scully, the blonde one from Stargate, Claudia Christian, Seven of Nine, Number Six, Starbuck, Amy Pond or any of the women from Farscape*. I do not collect trading cards from any TV show or film, I do not engage in endless pointless on-line forum debates about whether the White Star ships from Babylon 5 could whup the USS Enterprise - NCC-1701 (it could) or any of the other total Comic Book/SF/fantasy film nerdy activities. I don't complain when Hollywood fucks up perfectly good SF stories and turns them into moronic Nic Cage films (well, not too much). And for the most part I actively avoid trailers and spoilers for new films. I like sitting down knowing as little as I can about a film. I like to just let them do their thing without having too many expectations or preconceptions in my head.

John Carter though...

John Carter is based on A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. One of those seminal books. I read it as a kid and it has stayed with me all my life. I read several of the sequels too. It's real thrilling daring-do nonsense fantasy adventure. Hard to read as an adult. I read A Princess of Mars for the first time in many many years recently; it is, quite frankly, awful. But the nostalgia for my lost sense of wonder carried me through. Like so many books important to the the history of SF it hasn't stood the test of time well.

So when I bumped into the newly released trailer on Youtube I had to have a peek. Just a little one. I mean I already know the story.

One of the central characters of the Martian Books and some would say one of SF's most important early characters is Tars Tarkas, Jeddack of the Tharks. He is (unsurprisingly) a Martian. One of the Green, Plains Martians. Here's part of Burroughs' description of them from chapter 3 of a Princess of Mars:

...long necks and six legs, or, as I afterward learned, two legs and two arms, with an intermediary pair of limbs which could be used at will either as arms or legs. Their eyes were set at the extreme sides of their heads a trifle above the center and protruded in such a manner that they could be directed either forward or back and also independently of each other, thus permitting this queer animal to look in any direction, or in two directions at once, without the necessity of turning the head.

The ears, which were slightly above the eyes and closer together, were small, cup-shaped antennae, protruding not more than an inch on these young specimens. Their noses were but longitudinal slits in the center of their faces, midway between their mouths and ears.

There was no hair on their bodies, which were of a very light yellowish-green color. In the adults, as I was to learn quite soon, this color deepens to an olive green and is darker in the male than in the female. Further, the heads of the adults are not so out of proportion to their bodies as in the case of the young.

The iris of the eyes is blood red, as in Albinos, while the pupil is dark. The eyeball itself is very white, as are the teeth. These latter add a most ferocious appearance to an otherwise fearsome and terrible countenance, as the lower tusks curve upward to sharp points which end about where the eyes of earthly human beings are located. The whiteness of the teeth is not that of ivory, but of the snowiest and most gleaming of china. Against the dark background of their olive skins their tusks stand out in a most striking manner, making these weapons present a singularly formidable appearance.
Tars Tarkas, on his first appearance in the book, is described thus:
...huge and terrific incarnation of hate, of vengeance and of death. The man himself, for such I may call him, was fully fifteen feet in height and, on Earth, would have weighed some four hundred pounds. He sat his mount as we sit a horse, grasping the animal's barrel with his lower limbs, while the hands of his two right arms held his immense spear low at the side of his mount; his two left arms were outstretched laterally to help preserve his balance, the thing he rode having neither bridle or reins of any description for guidance.
I know what Tars Tarkas looks like, always have: big, green, six arms tusks. Lots of other people know what the big, green, six arms tusky bugger looks like too. Just go look up some of the weird wonderful (and occasionally disturbing) artwork that Google throws at you when you do a picture search for him.

How then given the description in the books and the obvious idea that the character is big and got huge fucking fangs and is one mean son of a bitch do the makers of the new film with a brazzillion dollars worth of GCI experience and the ability to create ANYTHING THEY WANT on screen come up with this as their CGI creation for the part:

Jar-Jar Shrek
Clickify for bignocity

Jar-Jar Shrek? Jesus fucking wept. Please tell me it isn't true. But this is a Disney film so maybe it is. I bet they've made Woola a cute kitten too. A wisecracking cute kitten.

I may have to go hide.

(On the other hand if this is not supposed to be Tars Tarkas, I take it all back.)

* This sentence contains a lie.

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