Review of John Carter of Mars
If you haven’t watched this movie but plan to, keep in mind that Edgar Rice Burroughs is one of the “founding fathers” of modern fantasy and Sci Fi writing. His style is not as memorable as Tolkien or Verne or Wells, and it’s been a long, long time since I read any of the John Carter of Mars books, so I can’t tell you how faithful or unfaithful the movie is.
But I do know that this series has inspired many popular writers and movie makers. George Lucas called A Princess of Mars, the book on which the movie is based, the prequel to the whole Star Wars series. If you see some familiar stuff in the movie, remember that Burroughs said it long before George Lucas, or even Tolkien.
John Carter fights to be left alone. This is a man with serious intelligence, cunning, and combat skills, some of which are listed for us near the beginning of the movie. He’s also seriously heroic, which puzzles some people who need heroes for their causes. They think they see something noble and self-sacrificing in John Carter, but he acts like he does not care about anything but himself. Flashbacks reveal the reasons for his wanting to be left alone.
Once on Mars, or Barsoom, he gets a new skill, and becomes even more interesting to people who desperately need a hero. All the pleas and threats of Barsoom’s people can’t move John Carter to stop a world-conquering tyrant. But when he discovers powerful meddlers without compassion, honor, or justice in their plans for Barsoom, the buried hero quickly resurfaces.
Is it romance that drives John Carter? Deja Thoris is much more than a pretty face. She is a scientist, a warrior, an inventor, a patriot, but she is also a liar and a manipulator. She really gives Carter no reason to fall in love with her. The usual muddled understanding of Science and Religion features prominently in this story. It’s a serious flaw, since their religion is the basis for all the real technology on the planet.
There are so many subplots in the movie that it’s crowded and confusing. It’s easy to see the main focus, but bewildering to dodge through the obstacle course of who’s who and why he/she is important. The importance of family to people who hatch from eggs miles from the home village is one subplot that would have been worth a little more exploring.