Mayhem vs. Sparrow – J. A. Bove

Well, I guess I put it off long enough, but over the weekend, I finally decided to go and see the fourth edition of Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides starring Johnny Depp, Ian McShane, and Penelope Cruz. Why was I so resistant to see this movie? Hmm … how should I put this? In almost one hundred years of making films, I have never seen, or heard of a movie that combined, pirates, mermaids, and the fountain of youth all in the same story line. Surprise, there is now.

Why should this bother me you ask? Well, it just so happens that my novel, Mayhem’s Fountain, (released in November 2010) also shares those exact same elements. You could imagine my despair when I first saw the trailer to this movie. At first I was intrigued. I thought another Pirates film, okay, big fan of Johnny Depp. I certainly enjoyed the first movie Then, I saw the mermaids, and thought, damn, someone else is finally tapping into this long forgotten market. Finally, I saw their pursuit of the Fountain of Youth and I thought, are you kidding me? I mean, what are the odds?

Okay, I admit it, this was quite a blow. My initial fear was that anyone who heard of my novel would assume that I took a page out of this movie and I felt devastated. Then I thought, you know, just because we share the same elements, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Look at the vampire market. Anyone who’s seen Twilight and True Blood would have to agree with this assessment. Let’s face it, same elements, but a completely different feel. If this is the case, then my novel should be all right. I consider my story more like True Blood and consider Pirates 4 more like Twilight. Now, since I’m a fan of lists, I give you my top five reasons (10 is too mainstream) why my novel Mayhem’s Fountain is nothing like On Stranger Tides.

Mermaids: This was the element of biggest concern for me, because it is the essence of my novel. I’m very pleased to say that our image of a mermaid was significantly different. While I try and portray the Atlanteans as almost super-human beings who live under the ocean, they are exactly that – human beings. The fins they wear while in the ocean are no more than swimming aids. They live, eat, and breathe as any other human would, just with more capacity. The mermaids portrayed in the pirate’s movie views them more as vampires than sea creatures. There aren’t any mermen, just mermaids, and they thrive on eating humans. My mermaids don’t eat humans, they may detest anyone from the upper world, but they would never eat them. Not cannibals – check.

The Fountain of Youth: This was another area of great concern, because both of our stories are centered around the Fountain of Youth in some way.  In Mayhem’s Fountain, the Fountain of Youth is represented as a well, centered in the middle of St. Augustine, being used daily for healing purposes by the locals in order to cure whatever ails them. In Pirate’s IV, the fountain is almost placed in another dimension, and the only way to get there is by way of some ancient ritual involving mermaid tears, and silver goblets. Once there, the only way to consume the water is to use this ritual and sacrifice humans. I don’t sacrifice humans. I share the water equally to anyone who cares to imbibe in its healing powers. No human sacrifice – check.

Pirates – This is where your characters define your story. Captain Jack Sparrow, played by Johnny Depp, is an icon that could never be duplicated.  He’s aloof, whimsical, and certainly very entertaining, but is he a true captain? Sure, he’s entertained millions of followers over the past 8 years, but does he have the qualities you would expect to find in a captain? Me personally, I think Ian McShane’s portrayal of Blackbeard was far more on point. Regardless, this is Disney, and this is Hollywood, therefore Captain Jack is the hero of this trilogy plus one. My novel’s protagonist, Captain Cornelius Mayhem is nothing like Jack Sparrow. He cares for his crew like his family, has a moral compass, and tends to want to do what’s right. Is my version of a pirate captain what you would expect to find, probably not, but my captain doesn’t wear eyeliner. No woman’s make-up on captain –check.

The New World: As mentioned earlier, both stories take you to the Fountain of Youth, and if history tells us anything of this myth, the Fountain was discovered in St. Augustine. In the pirate’s movie, you go to the new world, with its lush vegetation, huge waterfalls (are we in Florida), and of course an abandoned ship on top of a cliff. How it got on top of the cliff I have no idea. In my novel, I give you a land filled with the natives of the land, fighting to take back what was theirs from the invaders. You meet the inhabitants, see into their lives, and feel their pain. I too bring you into the jungles of Florida, but I make you feel the heat. Granted, I don’t have any abandoned ships hanging from a cliff, but I do have Sasquatch. No ship hangers – check.

Story Line: Finally and most importantly, you get to the story line. Disney is Disney and they’re so successful because they have a formula that works and they stick to it. While I may not think the storyline to the latest pirate movie was that great, my son appeared to have enjoyed himself, so mission accomplished. My story on the other hand was not written to entertain children, it was written for the adult fantasy fan; therefore I can’t make an apple to apples comparison.

Bottom line, I think you have the elements for a great story in either case and the beauty of using these elements are that they are universally known. I’m pleased to see the Atlantean, or mermaid come back to glory, and frankly I think it’s a myth that’s been long overdue for an overhaul. If you’re looking to spend some time with your child and like be entertained by the big screen, go see On Stranger Tides, it’s an enjoyable movie. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to be entertained by the written word and have an interest in the subject matter stated above, give my book a try. I would love to hear your comments.

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