I read Edgar Rice Burrough's Martian Series when I was a kid and was blown away by the first three books...the rest were a mixed lot going from decent to out and out terrible. But those first three were insanely epic, immensely colorful, dripping with the French chivalric principal, and...ok fairly simplistic in terms of character and character motivation. Still however, they were wonderful stories that seeded the ground for productions like Star Wars and Avatar.
I knew going into the theater that the film would have a difficult time living up to my standards and the quality of the original novel, A Princess of Mars
. So I wasn't expecting too
-and wasn't dissapointed, at the same time I wasn't impressed. It wasn't a bad flick but it also wasn't a very good one either.
Some of it I can understand...the irony is, though Jonh Carter of Mars was the originator of all space opera its movie debut follows a lot of big hitters and well trodden ground. It needed delicate handling and I'm afraid delicacy was entirely absent. The movie is full of trite cliches, among these, a hero who has given up because his wife and child have been killed, a la Josie Wales, an adorable, cartoony animal sidekick, and, oddly enough, a wedding crash at just the moment when the unwilling bride is about to say "I do."
It seemed to me, and I can't quite say how (not a professional critic after all), that a lot of the writing, especially the Arizona Territory sequence kind of fell flat. It just didn't seem to be how people would talk and once again there is that triteness. In one sequence Carter walks into a general store asking for more materials and the owner, That 70's Show Bob Pinciati, refuses. That whole exchange came off like more of the same old same old that we've seen a thousand times.
What I did like was how the writers explained or simply discarded so much of what Burroughs either A. never explained or B. was just plain weird. John Carter, in the books, is presented to the reader as a man who cannot remember a time when he wasn't a thirty something year old man and who seemingly does not age. It was a strange anomally that Burroughs inserted for some unknown purpose...unless it was to connect Carter to a distant, more chivalric time of swordplay over gunplay. Thankfully they left this element out.
Also they explained Carter's transportation to Mars. Burroughs has him go into a sacred cave (also in the movie) where he becomes paralyzed (never explained) then hears strange noises from the rear (never explained). The next instant he is upon Mars. The movie explained this in psuedo scientific fashion by virtue of a Thern (Priest of Mars) teleporting to the cave whereupon Carter shoots the fellow and takes his teleportation device(an amulet).
In the books, the Martians are telepathic, which obviously presents problems...after all how would the evil doers ever hope to plot and decieve when the hero can hear their innermost thoughts. To the best of my memory this was done as a method of helping/explaining John Carter's learning of the Barsoomian (Martian) language. In the movie, thankfully, this was discarded and replaced by a mystical language impartig drink that Carter receives from Sola (A "Green Martian" female who befriends Carter). Still kind of weird but better than plot killing telepathy.
All in all it was an ok flick, rife with banality, but ok still. At no point however, was it treated with the adroitness it should have been. All and all a huge flop. I waited years for this movie, fantasizing frequently about how I would do it if I had the talent, money, and means. Oh well, no one ever asked me
for advice so I guess they knew more about than I did, all the same one would have thought that with a budget of 250 million dollars they could have managed something better.
This wasn't really intended as a review, just a little venting. And I thought there might be some fellow lovers of the Martian Series on here that might want a run down on the movie.
Descenting opinions are welcomed.