I was distressed to see so much negativity surrounding the movie John Carter, based on the book A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, proclaiming it a weekend flop before the weekend was even over. It opened against some stiff competition (Disney’s new version of The Lorax. Give me strength). Now what in god’s name was Disney thinking launching both the same weekend?
I finally went to see it at a mid-afternoon showing on Monday (since I’m unemployed at this time, I have the luxury of being able to see movies when theaters aren’t so crowded). There were about 10 people there, including myself. It was perfect.
It’s a swashbuckler as much as anything. It brought back fond memories of when dragged a non-scifi friend to see the first Star Wars movie in 1977. We both felt that movie was just plain good fun. The good guys against the bad guys, white hats against the black hats. And so it is with John Carter.
Bear in mind these books were written 100 years ago, so they were not in any sense ‘politically correct.’ The princess of Mars, Dejah Thoris, wears nothing but some nice jewelry in the books. And probably a smile. I guess the climate on Mars is so mild nobody bothered to invent clothing. Obviously the movie has them wearing some pretty fabulous costumes, except for our intrepid hero, John Carter (played charmingly by Taylor Kitsch) who gets to run around in basically a loincloth through most of the flick. He did something like 98% of his own stunts and claims he has the groin scars to prove it, being strapped into harnesses for all the big bounce maneuvers.
I haven’t read the book on which the movie is based, but I am told by others who have that in the books Dejah Thoris is pretty much the typical helpless female who needs rescuing. Again, remember, the book was published in 1912. Edward was on the throne in England (think Mary Poppins, the Suffragette movement was new). Not so in the movie. Lynn Collins plays the princess, Dejah Thoris, and is in real life a black belt in karate. This gal can kick some serious ass. And her character wields a sword with the best of them, which leads to some amusing interchanges between her and John Carter. She’s strong, brave, brilliant, a professor in her city called Helium. No damsel-in-distress. She’s willing to sacrifice herself for the good of her people, to save her world. The character was updated, I’m sure, to make her more attractive and believable to modern audiences.
The steampunk crowd will appreciate the technology of the flying vessels they have. When John Carter decides to try to fly one, it takes him awhile to get the hang of the thing leading to some amusing, if harrowing, moments.
Go for the fun, the spectacle, the love story, the fabulous sets, the humor. The “Learning to Walk” scene is going to become a classic, so funny.
Here’s the trailer, and as usual, it kind of gets you muddled by tossing in scenes kind of randomly, but it’s much better than it looks here. The score is by Michael Giacchino, and I’ve already ordered the limited edition soundtrack CD while waiting anxiously, eagerly, for the pre-order for the DVD to become available (and yes I know the movie just opened).