Friday, January 30, 2009

A three hour tour. A three hour tour.

I haven't watched a Ray Harryhaussen movie, quite some time. Last summer I guess. It feels like it's been way too long!

I found a used copy of Jules Verne's 1874 novel, Mysterious Island at, surprisingly enough, a used book store near my apartment. I looked at it and thought to myself, 'You know what be fun, self?'

'No, self, what might be fun?'

'It might be pretty flippin sweet if we read this book, and watch the movie and then write about it!'

'Ok, sure, self. I could see how at least part of that might be fun.'

So, it was decided...I would read the book and watch the movie, then write all about it. Except, there was one problem. The book is god-awful boring. I read pretty fast most of the time. When I fly, I just devour books. Well, after 3 flights, I was barely 100 pages into the novel, about a fifth of the way through it! I'm sure it's a wonderful book, I don't know if it's just dated, or if it's just poorly translated, but I just can't get into it. So, I have no idea how different it is from the movie.

Mysterious Island is essentially a sequel to Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Of course, we don't know that at the outset. We know only that this band of soldiers has escaped a Confederate prison in the waning days of the American Civil War via hot air balloon. They find themselves caught in a wind that inexplicably is blowing west...eventually taking them from South Carolina to the South Pacific.

Stuck on this island they must fend for themselves. And by fend for themselves, I mean find food and fight off giant crabs. That's how it goes, right? There's something strange though, they seem to have a mysterious benefactor. Each time they're in over their heads, some needed assistance appears. It's quite...mysterious.

Yeah, I just said that. It was too good a pun to pass up.

Verne's story is as much an adventure on a lost island as a survival guide. The escapees are all incredibly capable men, able to do anything that might need to be done, including figuring out their latitude and longitude without any tools. They're quite impressive. They're the typical men's men. The kind of men they make Burger King commercials about.

Our intrepid islanders in the film are...not as explicitly capable. They're able to survive the way they need to, but they're not the experts that Verne created. The movie, however, does not suffer from the pacing problems that the book does. It may actually have to opposite problem, it moves too quickly, especially in getting everyone to the island. There isn't much of a setup for the characters. You don't learn much about them and what brought them all together.

Unfortunatley, that's all the comparison that I'm qualified to do. See, after 100 pages...nothing has happened. No, that's not true. Things have happened. They escape prison and get to the island. They find shelter, make fire and learn what they can eat. They didn't fight anything though. No pirates, no monsters. At least not yet. I hear that things like that might happen. They did in the movie. And the movie was certainly a good adventure.