Picture vs Page – Raise the Titanic

Raise the Titanic Picture vs Page Pic 01 by Casey Carlisle

The novel felt a bit different to the usual Dirk Pitt adventure from those I’ve read before. For one, there wasn’t a lot of Dirk. There were also a lot of characters that sometimes it took re-reading a passage to catch up with what was going on, especially at the start. The film did not have that issue. In fact there are so many characters and scenes omitted in the film adaptation that I want to say the screen version is “inspired by” the original text, instead of an out-right adaptation.

I enjoyed that the machismo was dialled back in the novel and this had a strong political strategy woven into the plot. Pitt read more like a mystery man, an enigma, a quiet hero, leaving out the humour and campiness of later volumes of the Pitt adventures. Consequently the film version of Pitt was so much worse. In fact I thought he was a bit of an ass – not a good opinion to have of the leading man. There was no mystery, no earthiness, no sea-worn larrikin. The screen version, played by Richard Jordan came off as an elite aristocrat and very much a part of the ‘Old Boys Club.’ All of that school-boy humour that Pitt is famous for is also edited out. No shade to Richard Jordan, but he is nothing like what I have pictured Pitt to be, and nothing like how he is described in the novels.

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Dirk Pitt (Played by Richard Jordan and Admiral Sandecker (Played by Jason Robards)

I was sad to see that Al Giordino was left on the cutting room floor.

The political strategy and multiple scenes setting up the existence and application of Byzanium in the novel feels like a detective novel, each scene carefully crafted and driving the plot forward. The films interpretation skips all of this apart from one key scene and turns the political landscape into a story of nuclear dominance between America and Russia. All the nuance was gone. All the interwoven plot points replaced with this simplified America – good; Russia – bad.

The iconic NUMA organisation Pitt is the masthead for is completely ignored in the film too. The only existence it has are the letters printed on the side of a submersible. They don’t mention anything about the organisation or Pitt’s affiliation to it. That, out of everything felt like a gut-punch for any Cussler fan. The salvage operation of the Titanic in the film instead is treated as a military operation.

You get a real sense of research and facts popping to the forefront in the novel. A lot of Cussler books are, but ‘Raise the Titanic’ felt even more so. I have to say this is probably the best written novel of Cussler’s I’ve read to date. The right balance of mystery, espionage, nautical hijinks and heroics in the face of world domination.  The film disappointed me in all of these areas. I did not get a sense of wonder or the depth of specialisation needed for the feat. Whatever their might have been was overshadowed by the stylized treatment of the film. Like some 1980’s high school presentation accompanied with some of the characters actually eye-rolling.

The film also added in some completely new scenes around the extrication of the Titanic from the seafloor. The loss of the Starfish and its crew from decompressive explosion, and the crew of another submersible trapped under some rigging and turned into the main motivation for raising the Titanic within a time limit. These scenes also removed Pitt from being the specialist he is and attempted to paint Dr. Gene Seagram as a bit of a fool. Both which I thought unnecessary.

The novel sees scenes bringing journalist Dana back into the conclusion, where in the film she’s just a tool for the plot releasing news of the Titanic and Byzanium to the public. Apart from that, not a single female is present in the film whatsoever. The feminist in me just threw up in her mouth.

I can understand why this scene and many others were cut: the time restraints to fit all that into a cinematic production would have turned this into a mini-series. In actual fact maybe that’s the direction they should have gone in. The special effects are okay I guess for the time this film was released, but viewing it again today, it comes across as amateur. Long slow-motion panning shots and a soundtrack that felt repetitive did not help with creating a wondrous atmosphere and bogged down the pacing of the film.

Alternatively, the novel was excellently paced. The start is full of positioning the powers players on the chessboard, but after that is established, I couldn’t put it down. The tension is so well done. You can feel the dark abyssal pressures ready to crush you. The wonder of the Titanic, the need to beat the bad guys. In the iconic scene where the Titanic is drifting to the surface in the film however, obvious use of models detracts from my enjoyment; so too was the use of wind gusting sound effects. There was so much scientifically wrong with how it was filmed I laughed. With Cussler going to all the trouble researching and making the scene feel as realistic as possible, the film just made a mockery of the entire thing.

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Model of the Titanic used in the making of ‘Raise the Titanic.’

The plot is mostly predictable both for the novel and the film – I mean it’s in the title – and you always want good to triumph over evil… but there were a few unexpected twists along the way which were a delight in the novel. The film left me bored. It was a 2 hour long yawn. It was interesting, but needed to be edited to pick up the pace. (And maybe make the hero look like a hero.)

After having read many of the later novels in the Dirk Pitt franchise, ‘Raise the Titanic’ not only introduced familiar characters, but also showed the beginnings of many relationships/careers which I found delightful. I did not get any of those feels after watching the film.

There was also an eerie precognition with this book written in 1977 before the discovery of the real Titanic on September 1, 1985, and how similar the ships condition was to the written text. The 1995 James Cameron documentary Titanic with footage was a joy to watch – I just wish the film would have been able to capture that same wonder. The film adaptation was released in 1980, and helped create publicity and momentum in the hunt for the iconic luxury cruise liners final resting place on the North Atlantic.

The novel has a very involved, intricate plot that hooked me in early and a title I highly recommend. The film however, a huge pass. No thanks, not ever. With so many of the core parts of the franchise cut from the film it felt soulless and delivered in a completely different tone. It didn’t even end in the same manner – all the characters were different except for Pitt.

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Dr. Gene Seagram (David Selby) and Dirk Pitt (Richard Jordan)

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Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Iceberg’ by Clive Cussler

A clusterf*#k of political incorrectness.

Iceberg (#3 Dirk Pitt) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Action Adventure

No. of pages: 340

From Goodreads:

Frozen inside a million-ton mass of ice-the charred remains of a long missing luxury yacht, vanished en route to a secret White House rendezvous.  The only clue to the ship’s priceless-and missing-cargo: nine ornately carved rings and the horribly burned bodies of its crew. 

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I’ve been a fan of Cussler since my teen years, but this singular novel really tested my nerve. I can forgive a little machismo – it’s to be expected in this genre and series, but when Cussler has Dirk Pitt playing a stereotype of a gay man – even so far as to use the word faggot a number of times, I wanted to set the book on fire. It was in such poor taste to read these hate-filled slurs. It highlights all the issues of discrimination that the LGBTQIA+ community face.

Cussler used about every negative trope around this issue in ‘Iceberg’ with the protagonist Dirk Pit undercover as a homosexual artist, staring hungrily at men’s crotches like a sexual predator, acting submissive and weak, wearing over-the-top colourful clothing, and flowery speech. This goes on for half the novel. It is obvious that Cussler adopted this writing style for it to come off as comedic, but it just shows his insensitivity and ignorance.

To compound the issue there are continual cracks about crazy women and menopause, or someone on their period – that was also meant to be jocular. The female characters were irrational tittering things meant to look pretty and fetch coffee. Their only goal to land a good husband. They were diminished to a sexual object, nursemaid, or servant. It came off as highly offensive.

Iceberg (#3 Dirk Pitt) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

I just don’t understand. Was Clive Cussler on some sort of acid trip writing ‘Iceberg?’ I’ve read over 15 of his novels and never come across such blatant misogyny. Maybe I should stop making allowances for Cussler’s overused tropes and start calling him on them in my reviews… I read his novels for the emphasised adventure, the marine environment, and the espionage. ‘Iceberg’ was overshadowed with such a distasteful display of tropes and writing I am literally gobsmacked. Way to offend half your audience dude.

Looking at other aspects of ‘Iceberg,’ like pacing and plot, it wasn’t so bad, but by no means anywhere near his best. There was a plot twist at the end that I didn’t see coming, but that too left a horrid taste in my mouth. I enjoyed the surprise, but hated the premise it supported.

In all honesty I do not recommend this book to anyone. If fact Cussler should pull it from his catalogue entirely. I know I would be ashamed to have written a novel like this.

Overall feeling: Anger and nausea.

Iceberg (#3 Dirk Pitt) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Iceberg (#3 Dirk Pitt) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Pacific Vortex!’ by Clive Cussler

Dirk Pitt is borne of pages and a passion for oceanic adventure!

Pacific Vortex Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Action Adventure

No. of pages: 346

From Goodreads:

Dirk Pitt’s first, most terrific adventure! Dirk Pitt, death-defying adventurer and deep-sea expert, is out to the ultimate test as he plunges into the perilous waters of the Pacific Vortex — a fog-shrouded sea zone where dozens of ships have vanished without a trace. The latest victim is the awesome superb Starbuck, America’s deep-diving nuclear arsenal. Its loss poses an unthinkable threat to national defense. Pitt’s job is to find it, salvage it, before the sea explodes. In a furious race against time, Pitt’s mission swirls him into a battle with underwater assassins-and traps him in the arms of Summer Moran, the most stunningly exotic and dangerous toward disaster, Clive Cussler plummets his hero onto an ancient sunken island-the astonishing setting for the explosive climax of Pacific Vortex!

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In the past I’ve really enjoyed the Bond-esque adventures of Dirk Pitt, and having been away from his action packed crusades for many, many years, I decided to catch up from the beginning. A goal of reading all the Dirk Pitt works from beginning to end and fill in the gaps of books I’ve missed.

Pacific Vortex!’ was better and worse than many of the other books I have read…

Pacific Vortex Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleBetter, because it really invoked a feeling of fear and anxiety around some of the undersea challenges Pitt faced, as well as the adrenalin filled awe at the scale and grandeur of the mysteries of the deep. I don’t think the other novels in this universe I’ve read quite captured that feeling as effectively.

Worse, because of all of the trappings that go along with a terminal bachelor ladies action man. So many archetypes which felt two dimensional and had me cringing. But I was expecting this. Dirk Pitt adventures are typically patriarchal, male-centric and reduce many interactions to machismo and objectification. It’s the same in the Bond franchise. The spoony and camp factor seem to come hand in hand in this genre.

The result was, that why I loved the adventure and marine elements, some of the stereotypes and interactions were hard to swallow. But you need to take it for what it is.

It was great to see the beginnings of a wonderful franchise. Clive Cussler writes with authority and conviction. He really knows his stuff when it comes to the marine environment – which, to be frank, is the main reason why I began reading his novels. That, and I crave a good adventure.

I know in later novels his character development and comedy are greatly improved, and female characters are painted with more than just an objective gaze or a damsel in distress. I think if I hadn’t already experienced Cussler’s later works I may have rated this lower, but have made an exception due to his legacy and the hours of wonder I’ve spent in his pages. Cussler’s writing is in part what spurred me into getting a Marine Biology degree in the first place.

So it’s only onward and upward from here. Can’t wait to see what the next adventure brings.

Overall feeling: machismo, but mad fun.

Pacific Vortex Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Pacific Vortex Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Film vs Novel – Sahara

An action hero to rival James Bond that I’d love to see more of.

Sahara Film vs Novel Review by Casey Carlisle

I loved both the film and the book (maybe the book a little more) The Dirk Pitt Franchise is something I’ve indulged in for nearly twenty years – with a taste for action, marine adventures littered with historical facts, and scientific information, Clive Cussler hits the right spot. Dirk Pitt has the swagger of James Bond, but the ruggedness of Indianna Jones. I only wish that a film franchise was born from these great novels.
Yes, the stories are very ‘Hollywood’ – fantastical and a little sexist, but it has a certain comical charm mixed in with the outrageous adventure stories. Sahara does not disappoint – Although I tend to love the novels more focused around underwater adventures, this one had the usual espionage and plot for world domination and equally nefarious baddies.
Casting choices for the movie felt strange to me – I pictured Dirk Pitt with more of a rugged handsome sea captain of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stature, and Al Giordion was always described as a short, stocky Italian man with a head full of black curly locks… and well Penelope Cruiz… I’m not a fan. So I went into the film with trepidation, but my passion for the Dirk Pitt series transposed into the film and saved it from total disappointment.

Sahara Film vs Novel Review Pic 1 by Casey Carlisle

Steve Zahn, who played Al Giordino has to be the stand out performance – not only did he make the character his own, but managed to capture the essence of Al. There were always those comical one liners and moments in the novel that Steve played out beautifully. A total unexpected surprise. Al Giordino 2.0!
Something that I have never said when comparing a novel to a film, is that the pacing and action scene are pretty well matched. Movies tend to overdramatise with explosions, soundtracks, special effects and camera angles – I felt this remained respectful to the storyline and didn’t make it too cheesy (although there is an amount of cheese in Dirk Pitt novels, and I love that irony… think James Bond, we expect a certain amount of predictability and campness.)
You don’t get to glean tid-bits of information from the film as you do in the book – I know I had mentioned in my comparison of Outlander by Diana Gabaladon that they had become a little tiresome and longwinded in her books; Cussler keeps his factoids simple and concise, enhancing the adventure further as Dirk Macguyer’s his way out of sticky situations.
The movie also lost a bit of that tongue-in-cheek comedy with the action scenes the book had (but I can understand why – Sahara would have turned into something like The Pink Panther and lost its edge)
I’d recommend this if you enjoy action adventure stories – think Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, think Goonies (shout out to Speilberg!). And even though it’s pretty close, I must say I prefer the novel… the Dirk Pitt on the written page was much more impressive.

Critique Casey by Casey Carlisle
© Casey Carlisle 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sunshine, Star Wars, predators and pirouettes all in one afternoon… by Casey Carlisle

Your breathing resembles sounds made by Darth Vader… and try as you might, you can’t silence the noise as you stare at a predator, sinuating in a languid fashion toward you with hungry black eyes.

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It may sound like a line from a horror story, but in fact I was having the time of my life – I thought, since posting about many of the research trips I’ve been involved in under the ‘HeadUnderWater’ tag, this time I’d post about something more recreational…

Stealing away a Sunday on a friends sailboat (how’s that for alliteration), we headed for secluded waters along the Great Barrier Reef to make the most of the sunshine and high visibility waters. There is nothing like cruising along the ocean with a warm salty breeze playing through your hair while enjoying a good book!

Our Skipper, Paul, knew of a great dive spot for coral canyons – a fantastic spot to get an eyeful of the plethora of marine flora and fauna. I’d been visiting small reef crops, grass beds and sandy Bay floors quite frequently and was really looking forward to the experience.

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This day, the water was freezing (because we were close to the outer edge of the reef) and I donned a full-body wet suit. There were five of us on the dive, including two avid underwater photographers (hence the brilliant photos) I met for the first time. As they flippered excitedly about, my buddy, Jasmine and I were content to wade along the canyon wall, ogling and admiring the various familiar species and coral formations. I couldn’t help thinking how amazing this would look during a night dive under a blacklight.

A highlight was the visitation of a curious Grey Nurse shark, meandering in the periphery for a while before heading off to more appetising morsels. Our site consisted of a series of shallow canyons cutting into the edge of the reef that often have large schools of fish and numerous turtles (and the occasional shark). Along the ridges between the canyons, groups of big fin reef squid swim in vertical formation in the water column, rippling with changing colours as they reacted to our presence. I couldn’t help but think of Luke Skywalker zooming through the gully of the Death Star on his bombing run as I paddled in the anemone encrusted ravine. At least no one was firing pot shots at me!

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Taking a break from the fascinating biology, Jasmine and I amused the others with our take on an underwater ballet. And I’m sure if fish could laugh, that is exactly what they were doing, watching our clumsy attempt at pirouettes and jetés in the viscous water. I may admit to many photos being taken of our performance, but then I’d be asked to post them here – so let’s just leave it to your imagination.

Swimming down and out over the gently sloping sand towards 18 metres, you can see some large scattered bommies, each with their own individual makeup of species and each worth a visit – if only we had the time… Jasmine, with her charade to return to the surface reigned in my curiosity.

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Waving to a scaly friend, who looked suspiciously like JarJar Binks, I made my way back to the yacht; looking forward to a hearty meal before heading back to solid ground. A lovely day with new and old friends on a boat aptly named ‘Hyperdrive’ all that was missing was a dog named Chewbacca and someone wearing their hair in side buns, Princess Leah-style.

© Casey Carlisle 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Thar’d be a dragon in them thar hills! … by Casey Carlisle

Not something in a fantasy novel, but it’s hovering in front of me.

Image  One on my great loves (apart from a great themed cocktail party), and something I wish I had more time to do is dive. Or even roll up my sleeves and get involved in some marine research projects again – as long as it doesn’t involve fish guts – I have an unfortunate story about that too! Maybe once I’ve gotten a few novels under my belt I’ll dip my toe again. But for now, trips down memory lane will have to suffice. Well that, and the occasional Clive Cussler novel.

Scrolling through my photo collection I happened across one of the most unusual creatures I’ve crossed paths with during my dives – The Leafy Seadragon. Our dive was actually about monitoring Dugong populations (which was amazing in itself – so stay tuned, I’ll blog about that later), but when seemingly underwater foliage drifted past my goggles, moving in a very uncharacteristic way, I became transfixed. A tiny undersea dragon eye-balled my swirling read hair and took pause. Guess I was just as fascinating to it?

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Endemic and unique to Australia, Seadragons (Phycodurus eques) grow to around 350mm and feed on small

crustaceans that populate kelp beds. These unconventional animals can live in excess of ten years and often remain undetected as they blend so easily into their habitat, which lies along the southern coastlines of this big Island.

 I love the fact that Australia holds so many exclusive species, and feel truly blessed to witness much of it firsthand!

With five of us on the dive, spending a few days to visit four sites around the Western Australian shoreline, I snapped a small photo collection of this unusual critter. The only thing that could have made it more awesome is if it did, in fact, breathe fire – how cool would that be?

ImageLucky enough to have high visibility in shallow waters and a nearly all-female crew, our research team was more like Sex and the City on a Trawler. Every evening we’d crank up the radio and drag out the cocktails (Hmm, there’s a party theme in there somewhere.) I also had some of the best calamari on this expedition, fresh from the ocean, and prepared under the sunny cloudless skies.  Unlike the reef dives, teeming with life, this one felt serene; like standing in a large paddock atop a hill undulating in an afternoon breeze – except it all existed underwater.

So medieval times have not washed away with the tides, it just hid it’s mythical creatures under the meniscus, quietly snacking in grassy meadows. Though you may not need a sword and shield to fight this dragon, I highly recommend night time beverage and a wiggle under the moonlight.

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© Casey Carlisle 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.