Release Date: 3/9/12
About a year and a half ago, I read a book by Edgar Rice Burroughs called A Princess of Mars. In it, the lead character was named John Carter, and I wondered at the time if this was the same John Carter as the movie. A Princess of Mars is part of the larger Barsoom series, so John Carter could have been based on a different book (it wasn’t).
This isn’t a book review of A Princess of Mars, but I will be using it as a frame of reference to discuss the movie. While I certainly saw the appeal of the book (I know people who became I writer because of this book), I didn’t enjoy it. Why, you ask would I watch the movie if I didn’t like the book? Well, the lead actor, Taylor Kitsch, also played one of my favorite characters from Friday Night Lights, Tim Riggins.
A Princess of Mars begins with John Carter in a cave on Earth, where he is transported to Mars without explanation. The movie producers couldn’t let that stand so they made up some über-aliens that were never in the book. Carter kills an über-alien with a 19th century pistol (even though advanced lasers couldn’t kill them). He steals a medallion and ends up transported to Mars.
Due to lower gravity on Mars, Carter becomes a superhero – he can basically fly because his leaps cover miles at a time, he can kill a (green) Martian in a single blow, because his muscles are so well developed from playing football in Dillon, Texas Earth’s stronger gravity. This was well explained in the book; in the movie, not so much.
Carter’s adventure really picks up when he saves a beautiful (red) Martian princess from an execution. The über-aliens were setting up an elaborate plan to execute her because she was smart enough to figure out their secret weapon. He has now made enemies of the über-aliens (they don’t know their compatriot died on Earth). He also embroiled himself in a civil war between two (red) Martian city-states.
Does this movie sound convoluted to you? Yet somehow, I ended up liking John Carter more than A Princess of Mars, though that is a low baseline. If you read the book and liked it, you will probably hate the movie. If you didn’t read the book, you might be a bit confused (I read the book and I was a bit confused). If you read the book and didn’t like it, you may or may not like the movie.
WWYT Rating: 5.9
IMDB Rating: 6.6