22 March 2012

John Carter

John Carter is an explorer searching for a cave of gold, but he gets way more than he bargains for as he travels over to Mars and becomes involved in the politics and struggles that the inhabitants face.

The film is derived from a set of magazine serials and novels (called Barsoom) by Edgar Rice Boroughs, which date all the way back to 1912, so the concept is a very old one. There have been various comic book adaptations of the stories and in 2009 the first novel, a Princess of Mars, was released as a direct-to video film.

The film may be likened to Avatar in the way that it is set on another planet, but I can safely say that apart from that, I haven't seen anything similar to it before. The concept of a human being travelling to other planets has been done, yes, but has Dr Who ever saved a Princess from an evil man with a blue glowing hand? I think not.

The plot is difficult to explain, as it has many facets that need to be looked at. First, there is the character of John Carter himself. All he wants to do is get home to begin with, but as he gets to know the inhabitants of the planet, and the danger they face, he feels such a connection with them that the need to go home vanishes. The indigenous tribe (four-limbed, big green martians with tusks) are savage and their tempers are brittle, yet John finds some hope that there is more to them than their savage behaviour lets on. There is also a humanoid species living on Barsoom, and that's where all the trouble lies. One man has declared war on the planet, and because of him, it is dying. The Princess of Helium has run away after spurning his marriage proposal, and the hunt is on to catch her again.

But there's much more to it, and it is truly incredible that they have managed to make a film in which it is all explained and nothing is vague. The film has the odd bit of humour too, mainly at the beginning as it becomes more and more serious as the situation progresses. The style of the landscape and the presentation of the characters is very similar to that of 10,000 BC.

And I have to say that the acting isn't too shabby either. I think the most impressive was Lynn Collins (who you may recognise from X Men Origins: Wolverine) whose acting was completely realistic and whose prescence as sceen-stealing. A fun fact for you is that Taylor Kitsch, who plays John Carter, was also in X Men Origins:Wolverine as Remy LeBeau, otherwise known as Gambit.

The cast contains a bucket load of good actors: Mark Strong, Samantha Morton, Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church, Ciaran Hinds, Dominic West and James Purefoy to name a few. I think the best idea of this film is that it is filled with well-known actors and actresses, and yet they aren't main characters. The way Disney does this with their films means that lesser known actors and actresses get their limelight, and something might come of it.

Disney has had a huge hit with Pirates of the Caribbean, we can't forget the visual perfection of Tron:Legacy or the thrilling action sequences from Prince of Persia : Sands of Time, but will this be a hit? We can only wait and see...

8 out of 10

16 March 2012

The Forgotten Legion Chronicles - Ben Kane

Fast-paced, action-packed and truly realistic. This is all the acclaim these books deserve.

The trilogy is set in Italy, when the Romans were at the height of their power and Caesar was cutting down his enemy one country at a time. But we don't follow Caesar. We follow four characters whose backgrounds are far more lowly than a noble. There's Tarquinius, the soothsayer, Brennus, a huge Gaul, Romulus and Fabiola, the twins whose lives were torn apart by their owner.

The story is very real, considering it is set in a time that was so long ago. The attention to detail is meticulous and the amount of research that must have gone into the trilogy is insane! The characters are perfectly defined. They aren't one-dimensional, and they all have different ideas, beliefs, goals and backgrounds. But the best thing about the way the characters are developed in the books is that they each have faults. They aren't your usual perfect beings, and some of them aren't the type that can even be lovable because of them.

The story is engrossing. I admit that the first book took a while to get rolling, as some books will. But I think that this was OK. Without the back-stories, the characters would be nothing more than the purposeless personalities you see in modern teen romance novels. Luckily, Ben Kane is not your average writer. And not only that, but these novels are set in a time when nothing is easy, and nothing is taken for granted. You won't see any star-crossed lovers here.

All three books take place over a good few years. The politics around Rome are continually changing during this time and I really commend Ben Kane for putting it across in a way that is easy to grasp. There's even a glossary of terms in the back for when you just can't remember what a contubernium is. Expect a lot of fighting, blood and sexual content. After all, this is Ancient Rome in a time of confusion and continual war.

So if you like your history, or just like reading about epic journeys, destiny and intrigue, this is the book for you.

It truly engrossed me.
Five out of five

The books go in the order: The Forgotten Legion, The Silver Eagle, The Road to Rome
Buy them: Right Here