dochermes (dochermes) wrote,
dochermes
dochermes

Just saw JOHN CARTER OF MARS



I had a good time, it was the first adventure movie I`ve seen in a long time that I was really satisfied with and left the theatre happy. I am convinced Disney didn't care about this movie and didn't want to put an effort into making it a success. Why the release in March? This is a classic summer fun flick! Why the uninteresting generic title? JOHN CARTER... sheesh. There is absolutely nothing wrong with A PRINCESS OF MARS or WARLORD OF MARS or even just JOHN CARTER OF MARS (as the closing titles read). Honestly, I think this film was sabotaged.

Whatever, I thought it was really good and would welcome a sequel or two (not that we seem likely to get one, the way sales sound). Long ago, I accepted that TV or movie versions of books are not going to be 100% faithful and they shouldn't try to be. It's like saying you have to cook lasagna the way you cook pork fried rice, what works with one is not going to work the other way. I was fine with Peter Jackson`s LORD OF THE RINGS, could see why he made changes to make it work on the screen and was glad to get such a well-made version. Same with good old Barsoom.

One of the changes was to give John Carter a visible personality. I never liked the Mars books as much as the Tarzan series because Tarzan was complicated, he had strange moods and a sense of humor, he was always conscious of being an outsider in both his worlds; John Carter was frankly just a fighting man with the oldfashioned civalry built into him and not much else. He didnt seem too curious about why he was ageless, for one thing. You`d think a guy would wonder about that. The other characters were much more alive and quirky and identifiable than Carter, who was possibly intended to be a blank slate so the reader could identify with him easily. Giving the movie Carter a lost family did work at making his not-giving-a-damn attitude make sense, and made his coming to care what happened to Dejah Thoris, to Helium, to all of Barsoom a real challenge It's a typical Hollywood journey of the hero from indifference to crusading, but it works.

The movie Dejah Thoris was fine. She carried the story a lot more than in the book, and she sold the convction that all this mattered. I liked the actress. She was not a delicate Grace Kelly type, she looked genuinely fit and athletic. As I recall, the book Dejah was not a warrior at all. Barsoomian women didn't fight, they were like Victorian ladies, but well, in today's outlook, Dejah Thoris had to be a fighter as skilled or better than John Carter himself or we'd never hear the end of it. That Dejah was also a genius at science, solving the problem of the ninth ray was harder to accept, but by that time the popcorn was kicking in.

The Tharks were great. Well, yes, they were different from the books. They didn't have huge tusks sticking up from their lower jaws, their eyes were not set froglike high on their head and to be honest, they all looked a bit more thin than I imagined. But I immediately knew what they were, they moved and spoke and acted like Tharks, and they were okay in my book.

What else? The framing sequence with nephew Edgar Rice Burroughs was excellent. Personally, I liked that way John Carter's trip to Barsoom and his return was left a mystery in the books. It resonated better that way, it felt like myth. The movie explained things and I can see why, but I still prefer the inexplicable. The Therns I could have done without. Just didnt care for them, I think the story could be told without them and their illusions/shapeshifting/teleportation/telepathy. Feh.

Oh, and the humor came in at just the right moments without ruining momentum or mood. I never thought I would see John Carter dopeslapped for leading a charge to the wrong city. His remarks to Woola were priceless, ("Bad dog!`"). Also, the movie John Carter leaped a lot higher and more often than the book guy ever did, but again, its a movie and much more visual. I liked that our boy was superstrong but not invincibly so and could still be hurt or killed like anyone else.
Tags: edgar rice burroughs, john carter, movies, pulps
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