John Carter (of Mars!) Reviews
Yesterday my son Arthur and I went to see a matinee of the Disney Studios film ‘John Carter’. I must say right off the bat: I really enjoyed this movie. And the day after viewing it, with the images and characters still bubbling around in my mind, I’d have to say that I loved it! Perhaps partly because I read the first three Barsoom novels as a teen, and this film wonderfully captured for me that nostalgia; the feel of reading the Burroughs stories for the fist time.
If you’re not familiar with ‘John Carter’, the movie, (as opposed to the rookie doctor from ‘ER’) it is director Andrew Stantons adaptation of the first of Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom novels, ‘A Princess of Mars’. Burroughs, who also wrote the ‘Tarzan’ series, created a bunch of stories about the world of Barsoom (that we call Mars) about a hundred years ago. The first novel is about Civil War veteran John Carter who is mysteriously transported to Mars and his adventures with Dejah Thoris, Princess of the city-state of Helium.
Since the movie first came out I kept hearing about what a disappointment it is; how it didn’t make a billion dollars the very first weekend it premiered. I read a couple of reviews that said the story was incomprehensible; the acting was bad, and so on; even though the previews looked pretty darn cool to me! But Arthur wanted to see it very badly, so I went with not very great expectations. And I was very pleasantly surprised. The movie was just great fun! I actually liked the actors and how they portrayed their characters. And it was apparent to me that the filmmakers spent a lot of time and attention to detail. The scenery and special effects are gorgeous; from the ancient cities, the details of Martian airships and machinery, the costumes, to the amazing CGI creation of the four-armed, green-skinned Tharks. I think Stanton’s film did an admirable job capturing that steampunk/swashbuckling/science fiction-fantasy spirit of those Burroughs stories, while actually improving on the original (like the explanation for Carter’s transportation to Mars, and bringing in elements and characters from the second Barsoom story, ‘Gods of Mars’). I thought the pacing, the interaction of the characters (even the computer-generated ones) and the story-within-a-story was very well done. It’s got battles, action, romance! It takes itself quite seriously, but with a nice balance of humor in just the right places. And I loved the ending! Every change that was made to the movie definitely improved the overall story.
I don’t know: maybe people who didn’t like or understand the film were not familiar with the source material; or maybe they were just a lot younger than I and found elements of the story too familiar? Even though the original story is the template, along with the works of Robert E. Howard and a few other writers, for most of the Fantasy/Sword and Sorcery stories that have come out in the past century! Edgar Rice Burroughs and others inspired much of the books and films that have come after them, not the other way around! I think ‘John Carter’ is a worthy homage to the spirit and imagination of those early pioneers of imagination.
So please go see the movie while it’s still in theaters (we did not see the 3D version, and it was breathtaking). Because the ending made me really hope that they make the next movie in a proposed trilogy about John Carter of Mars. I enjoyed my time in that mythical Mars called Barsoom, and would like to explore it further. (I like to pretend that this story takes place in an alternate universe where Mars still harbors life). Also the possibility of the Therns making mischief on Earth of the 1880s could be a lot of fun!
Update: Because I received a comment on this post with links to a Facebook page and a website of people who loved ‘John Carter’ and, like me, want to see another film made in this series, I’m adding these two links: https://www.facebook.com/groups/backtobarsoom/ and http://backtobarsoom.com/.
Below I’ll leave you with some of the numerous favorable reviews that really do more justice than I have here.