Friday, April 5, 2013

John Carter

Pardon for the paucity of posts lately, but with Easter and some sickness, I just have not been able to manage it.  Hopefully next week will be better in that regard, as I still have five more lists for the d1000 Inquisitor project, and then hope to wrap up everything with a finalized list.

My wife and I did manage to watch John Carter this week.  This is the second time I have tried to watch the movie, the first failed due to lack of time before our vacation, so I was doubly determined to get through it.  Spoilers if you have not read the book or seen the movie previously.

The movie loosely follows "A Princess of Mars" in retelling John Carter's first visit to Barsoom.  Briefly, John Carter is a washed up gold miner, who is recruited into the US cavalry, refuses to join because of his desire not to fight, escapes has a brush with Apaches (caused by the cavalry), finds the cave of gold, and then slays a Thern and accidentally travels to Mars. There, his side of the story goes mostly as told in the book, and it is not until we get to Dejah Thoris that things deviate.  In this version of the story, there are only two Red Martian cities left, Zodanga and Helium, and Zodanga is winning through the influences of the Therns. Dejah is the daughter of the Jeddak (rather than granddaughter), and is a scientist involved in research into the 9th ray (not currently used by the Red Martians).  She flees, is captured by the Tharks (as in the book), but is immediately given to John as war booty, rather than being distant.  The immediately escape with Sola and Woola to travel down the river to Issus, which they think is related to the Therns.  There, they find out about transporting John Carter back to Jasoom, get attacked by the Warhoon tribe, and then are rescued by Helium's one ship navy. 

Dejah agrees to marry the prince of Zodanga to bring peace, John Carter does not want to fight, and will return to Earth.  Naturally, he starts to change his mind, and is then captured by a Thern, who through a succession of shape changes, tells him about the Therns, who are somehow taking energy from Mars to fuel their race, and want Zodanga to destroy Helium. John naturally escapes, goes and collects a Thark army, sacks Zodanga to prevent the wedding, finds that the wedding is in Helium, goes there, and stops it.  He then marries Dejah himself, and everyone is happy, until the next night when he is sent back to Earth by a Thern.  He awakens in the cave, and then spends his life tying to find a way back to Mars.

Some of the changes help to make the movie easier to understand in the limited time span, although since they expected to make a trilogy, some of the other changes do not really make that much sense (showing Issus, using Therns as they did, sending John back before he can have children, and so on).  Zodanga also has a walking city for no reason.

A few small things annoyed me about the movie, such as the moons not appearing correctly, John's jumping ability being so.. superman like, the flying ships were not ships, so much as dragonfly winged galleys, white apes as giants, and Woola was great, but far too fast.  Mars also appeared to be far more dead in the movie than in the books, as the ever present ochre plant life was not ever present. (and there were no farms, canals, or other plant life either)

Dejah Thoris could have been cast better, I was expecting someone more like Ornella Muti in Flash Gordon, i.e. someone who could plausibly be the most beautiful woman on a planet full of them. (I did not expect book accurate clothing in a Disney film).  John Carter was not lusty for battle in the movie as he was in the book (originally written pre-war), but that may have been hard to pitch in this more pacific era.  The introduction of a dead wife and child to his back story was puzzling, because it both prohibited him from falling in love with Dejah when he met her, and meant that he was less of a mercenary drifter as a broken man.  The Sola/Tars Tarkas sub plot was handled and condensed quite well.

Overall though, it was worth the price I paid for it, and worth spending a few hours watching.  If you are a Barsoom fan, I suggest you watch it.

I am currently on the last volume of the Collected John Carter of Mars, so more Barsoom to come. (contain your excitment!)


Clovis Cithog said...

If you are interested in Barsoom style miniatures I recommend BronzeAgeMiniaturesDOTc om . . . my blog roll contains numerous sites of Red Planet fan fare

Lasgunpacker said...

Yes, Barsoom is certainly an interest of mine lately... along with 1000 other things unfortunately!

I mentioned Bronzeage in my first post on Barsoom, but you are certainly right, they are evocative.