Delightfully retro, John Carter is an ambitious and visually impressive space opera featuring a great cast. It’s based on the novel A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. What makes this a very strange adaptation is the fact that the novel saw the light of day exactly 100 years before the movie, in 1912. This is why John Carter will feel a bit different from all the other science fiction epics. And while the story starts here, on Earth, we will soon find ourselves on Mars, overcoming challenges and helping locals. At the time, this was one of the most expensive movies ever produced. And also one of the biggest flops.
Most of it is down to an inept marketing campaign and some other issues that are really not that important now. One of the first things you’re going to notice about John Carter is just how good looks. The special effects still look amazing even after ten years. And there will be a lot of special effects, weird creatures, alien races, and all sorts of other things. The technology the Martians use has a steampunk vibe, something we’ve seen in Mortal Engines or Wild Wild West. And I will try to avoid Dune references as who knows what the fuck is going on here. And the same goes for the Lawrence of Arabia.
It’s no wonder that Disney ended up being the one to bring this story to the big screen because it basically has a fairy tale structure. We even have a fucking princess. Now, the cast of John Carter is awesome, led by two of my favorite veterans Ciarán Hinds and Willem Dafoe. Taylor Kitsch knew how to play the hero in a strange land and his love interest Lynn Collins looked like Jasmine from Aladdin. Only she knew how to kick ass and do science apparently.
After he lost his family during the Civil War, John Carter now spends his days looking for gold. He accidentally stumbles upon a cave with strange markings and after losing consciousness wakes up in this strange place. A place he would call Mars but the inhabitants of the red planet would call Barsoom. And they’re about to meet John Carter of Earth. Now, how he became John Carter of Mars is a much longer and more exciting story.
John Carter opens with a lavish and exciting chase scene showcasing the quality of the CGI letting us know we’re in for quite a ride. The pacing is perfect and there’s not a dull moment in this movie. If nothing of importance is happening, you can admire the mesmerizing Martian vistas or very detailed sets. And the costume department also did a terrific job. We will spend the majority of the time on Mars but there’s a decently sized portion set on Earth, right after the Civil War.
I know that this was a really big movie at the time and that you probably already knew about it but I simply had to recommend it. There are not a lot of good space adventure out there and if you’re craving some outer space action, John Carter is a great choice. For example, The Chronicles of Riddick tried its best to be one of those movies and almost succeeded. If the Eastern vibes are what you’re looking for, I do recommend you check out Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. It features almost the same aesthetic and atmosphere, only it’s set on Earth.
Unlike the 2016 Warcraft movie that offers an even more extravagant blend of science fiction, fantasy, and action. And it looks freaking awesome. Finally, you should know that John Carter was supposed to be the beginning of the new and lucrative franchise for Disney. This is why some of the subplots may feel unresolved. However, this also doesn’t mean that the story doesn’t have a satisfying end.
Director: Andrew Stanton
Writers: Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews, Michael Chabon
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe, Mark Strong, Dominic West, Ciarán Hinds
Fun Facts: The movie was in developmental hell for 79 years and was originally envisioned as a cartoon. If this plan came to fruition A Princess of Mars would be the first animated feature film in America.