Movie Review: John Carter – did you know a Martian princess could lay an egg?

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John Carter ~ Walt Disney Pictures

My son and I saw a screening of John Carter (Walt Disney Pictures) last week. It’s one of the better films we’ve seen this year. According to the press material, the movie is based on a novel, A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Below is a quick summary of the film. Continue reading for the full movie review of John Carter [Facebook | Twitter].

The 411 for John Carter

The story A former Civil War soldier ends up in the middle of a civil war on Mars
Appropriateness for children No sexual content, but there is violence (not bloody) and some mild bad language (hell and damn). In addition, the movie might be a little too long for very young children.
3D effects Typical, nothing gimmicky
Positives
  • Interesting story and fascinating story idea
  • Good special effects
  • Strong female role
Negative
  • Well into the story, the main character still thought he was on Earth even though it’s obvious he’s not
Release date March 9, 2012
Rating Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action
Runtime 132 minutes
Genre Science fiction, action, adventure

Lost in our world, found in another
The story starts off shortly after the end of the Civil War. John Carter, a former Confederates soldier, is captured and told to join the new cavalry. He refuses, escapes, and eventually ends up in a cave. While in the cave, Carter is attacked, loses consciousness, and then wakes up on Barsoom (Mars). Because the gravity on Mars is much lower than on Earth, John Carter is stronger and faster on Mars. He can also now leap great distances, which is what he does when he sees a beautiful red Martian, Dejah Thoris, fall out of an air ship. Carter rescues her and learns about the war between the humanoids of Helium and Zodanga. Thoris is a princess of Helium.

A princess that can lay an egg
John Carter is based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ book, A Princess of Mars. Many elements of the book are in the movie. However, in my opinion, the movie does not faithfully follow the book. For instance:

  • The main focus of the movie is about the Martian civil war and Carter trying to return to Earth. In the book, Carter didn’t really care about returning to Earth and was preoccupied with keeping the princess safe. The novel didn’t even bring up the war between Helium and Zodanga until near the end of the story.
  • In the book, Carter knew right away he was on Mars. In the movie, Carter thought he was still on Earth. You would think the two moons in the sky, the air ships and the large, green sentient lifeforms (Tharks) with four arms might be clues that he’s not on Earth anymore. Hello. Insects don’t walk upright, wear clothes, or carry weapons on Earth.
  • In the movie, alien technology was used to essentially faxed Carter over to Mars from Earth. In the book, Carter has an out-of-body experience and was drawn to Mars when he left his body.
  • The movie included a group of Therns, which I don’t think were introduced until the second book in the Barsoom series.
  • A Princess of Mars novel ends with the princess laying an egg, and the ending was a bit sad. The movie didn’t really have a happy ending, but it wasn’t sad either. And as far as I know, the princess in the movie didn’t lay an egg. I guess we won’t really know for sure unless there is a sequel to John Carter, which I would love to see.

I’m not complaining about the changes (except for Carter thinking he was still on Earth). In fact, I like both the movie and book versions of the John Carter of Earth/Mars story.

Not another damsel in distress
In the movie, Princess Dejah Thoris falls off an air ship and is recused by John Carter. Sounds like another damsel in distress story? Wrong. The princess did get recused a couple of times in the story. However, Dejah Thoris is actually a fairly strong character that is independent and can fend for herself. A couple of times, she even tells Carter to stand behind her as she attacks the villains with her sword. Her character in the movie is actually stronger than the one in the book. In my opinion, the Princess of Helium in the book really was a damsel in distress.

Friday Night Lights
Taylor Kitsch (John Carter) and Lynn Collins (Dejah Thoris) are the stars of the movie. They both do a decent job. I’m actually a fan of Taylor Kitsch’s character in Friday Night Lights. Willem Dafoe (Tars Tarkas) and Thomas Haden Church (Tal Hajus) are also in the movie, but I did not recognized them in the film because they’re insectoids. John Carter also featured Samantha Morton (Sola), Mark Strong (Matai Shang), Ciarán Hinds (Tardos Mors), Dominic West (Sab Than), James Purefoy (Kantos Kan), Bryan Cranston (Powell), Polly Walker (Sarkoja), and Daryl Sabara (Edgar Rice Burroughs).

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One thought on “Movie Review: John Carter – did you know a Martian princess could lay an egg?

  1. Ive heard nothing good about this movie yet an heard how much money they lost on it,,spent too much making it

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