Producing an action fantasy movie adapted from a novel is a triple risk for movie studios. There are three things that they have to get right to make it a hit: 1) the movie has to at least be as good as the book 2) the movie resources–casting, story and SFX must hit all the right spots 3) the fan base must be appeased or there will be an uprising! When production stills and TV ads started to roll out, I’m sure the fans’ lukewarm reaction made Disney execs nervous about shelling out $250 million for an untried property helmed by an animation director. I was very skeptical myself. I read the novel A Princess Of Mars, loved it and hoped the movie did it justice. I saw the movie in a crowded theatre tonight. Just like an Olympic judge when the scores are read regarding the competitor’s performance, here is my score of John Carter . . . . TEN OUT OF TEN!!!!!!!!!!!
John Carter to me is one of the best adapted fantasy films of all time. It’s at least as good as the original book, the cast, story and SFX are superb, and thank goodness, there will be no fan uprising. It’s one of the most impressive sci-fi movies I’ve ever seen, because it’s a character-driven story with an emotional core. It’s also a movie with historical significance. John Carter’s first adventure on Mars was titled “Under The Moons Of Mars”, published in 1912 and that story and others were collected in A Princess Of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (ERB, creator of Tarzan). It was the first of its kind. It was the first novel that had a hero going to another planet, filled with aliens, airships and advanced technology. Action/sci-fi/fantasy properties like Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Star Wars, Avatar, DC’s Adam Strange and Superman owe a lot of their borrowed inspiration from John Carter. None of these properties would have been made if it were not for ERB’s creation of John Carter.
Regarding the movie these are some of the great things about it: The cast was solid- they sold the audience with their performance. They made it believable. There was good chemistry and interplay with all characters. Production design was superb and top notch, ERB and Frazetta all the way. SFX was excellent The 3D conversion was……… excellent! I’m not a fan of converted 3D movies, but this one was very well done. As for director Andrew Stanton- that’s the biggest surprise of this movie- under his confident vision, he nailed it. He made sure this is a character-driven piece that made the audience care. This movie gave me the same feeling of great satisfaction that I felt with Star Wars Episode IV and V, Star Trek II, Lord of The Rings ROTK, Avatar, Superman, Spider-Man II, Iron Man and Thor. But the one thing I do hope they could do is offer more scenes when the move goes to BluRay. two hours and ten minutes in theatres was just about right, but now I want to see a little more. There are some that may point to this movie’s similarities to Star Wars and Avatar, well any fan will tell you that Lucas and Cameron ripped off ERB! Both of those creations were inspired by the John Carter stories. For example that scene in Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones where our heroes have to fight those giant monsters in the arena was taken from John Carter. With Avatar, that alien planet is populated by six-limbed creatures just as on Mars in John Carter. Even the Nav’i being tall and blue are inspired by the tall, green martians in ERB’s work.
My one immature quibble about the movie is that Dejah Thoris is not as scantily clad as Frazetta and all fantasy girl artists often illustrate her- but that’s just a minor quibble. I guess for a Disney PG rated move, it would not have been possible, but Lynn Collins totally sells it as Dejah Thoris. Her long raven black hair, her piercing blue eyes and the fighter’s spirit convinced me that Dejah Thoris can work in a Disney movie. This minor quibble does not even make a dent in the immensely satisfying feeling I have for this movie. That’s the way I personally measure a movie I go see these days. It all depends on the overall level of satisfaction that I feel as I walk out of the theatre. When it’s this good, I need to tell others about the movie. And to think its taken all these years to get this ERB creation made as a movie. His other creation, Tarzan has many movies, TV shows, cartoons, comic books, comic strips produced. Tarzan had a lead over John Carter. But now, with movies being the top art form, with talent and technology that can adapt words into visual reality, the John Carter of Mars series has now broken the pop culture barrier. Now everyone knows what a select few original pre-movie John Carter fans knew- this is a great story!! The one thing I want to tell everyone is GO SEE THIS MOVIE! Go with your buddies, with your significant other, go with your family. It’s that good. I’m going to go back tomorrow, and maybe see it three more times. ERB, you finally get your due.
Despite occasional moments of silliness, the old-fashioned sense of adventure and brilliantly rendered aliens elevate this above other derivative big-budget sci-fi fare. I still wished that Kitsch did a lot better in this lead role but he was only there for eye-candy really. Good review. What also stinks is that this flick probably won’t make back any of its 250 million dollar budget.