Sunday, March 18, 2012
Just in from seeing John Carter. Overall I enjoyed it. I have quibbles of course. It's not as close an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' 'A Princess of Mars' as I might have wished for. There were the usual Hollywood changes in storyline for no discernible reasons. Nothing close to Conan, mind you, but the occasional What-tha? moment.
But here's the good part. It looks like Barsoom. Speaking as someone who read the Mars books over and over as a kid, this got pretty close to what I saw in my head. The fliers. The Thoats. The Tharks and the Warhoon. The look of the armor and clothing. (Though technically ERB's martians went mostly nude, but the designs on this looked very much in the Frazetta, Krenkel tradition.) Sure Woola, is a bit too cute, obviously aimed at the kids, but for the most part, I believed I was watching an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Contrast this with the debacle that was Conan the Barbarian, where only a few names were kept to protect the guilty. Here, entire scenes were pulled intact out of ERB. Carter's frustration as he attempted to learn to walk under the lower gravity of Mars. His discovery of the Thark Hatchery.
The screenwriters felt the need to saddle Carter with an "origin" which seemed to have been cobbled together from Jeremiah Johnson of Josey Wales, so he could have his 'character arc', but that was fairly easy to ignore. Actor Taylor Kitsch looked great in the part and his Southern accent wasn't overdone. Lynn Collins is stunning as the incomparable Dejah Thoris. James Purefoy was sadly underused as Kantos Kan. (It's actually making me smile to type those Barsoomian names, just as it did to hear them in the theater.)
The origins and motivations of the Therns made me think the screenwriters had been reading too much Michael Moorcock but I can see where they were trying to give the movie a structure that someone other than a John Carter fan would understand and enjoy.
There were rousing battles and many great action scenes, and the CGI characters were flawlessly integrated with the live action footage. You can tell some money was spent on this movie. Sadly, Disney's marketing dept released a slew of almost incomprehensible trailers, leaving the average viewer with no idea of what this movie was about and totally neglecting the romance angle of the film, which might have brought in more viewers who aren't fond of science fiction. It's apparently not doing great at the box office, and that's a shame, because while it's far from a perfect adaptation, it is very recognizably Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars on the Screen, and I'd like to see some more adventures there.