John Carter (2012)
Reviewed on 2012 April 3
I knew this was a Disney movie, based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs series of books, focusing on A Princess of Mars. Burroughs was one of those authors I haven’t got to yet, so the sum total of what I knew about the whole thing sounded like a Bart Simpson book report:
This dude named John Carter goes to Mars, and he does stuff. Cool stuff.
The spouse has read the whole series of Martian adventures and loved the movie; for what it’s worth, I enjoyed it too. The non-linear storyline begins with sweeping shots of Mars, called Barsoom by its natives, with a narrator explaining that Mars wasn’t a dead planet yet but life here was not for sissies. Two groups of people, the citizens of Helium and Zodanga, are fighting an ages-old quarrel. Mars certainly looks bleak, but based on the appearance of both groups of people, they have some Golds Gyms or Bally Fitness Centers squirreled away somewhere. The head warrior and thug of Zodanga, Sab Than (Dominic West) decides he’ll call a truce if Helium scientist/princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) will marry him. Dejah despises Sab, but she feels a duty to save her people.
Meanwhile, Civil War veteran John Carter (Taylor KItsch) isn’t having an easy time of things either, having a disagreement with a soldier (Bryan Cranston) that ultimately leads him to a cave. Through one of those sci-fi conventions that doesn’t sound completely silly when it’s developed well, he winds up on the surface of Mars, and its inhabitants are as confused by him as he is by them.
When I heard one of the main kingdoms of Mars was called Helium, I inwardly groaned a little and flashed on Unobtanium and the Hallelujah Mountains of Avatar, but this is nothing like that. This reminded me of the old science fiction of the ’50s, and we have Burroughs to thank for that. The set design and costuming is something too; at first the outfits sported by the people of Helium reminded me of stuff you’d see at a renaissance fair, but they grew on me. Kitsch was very likable as the tough, laconic Carter, and Collins was good as princess-with-a-brain Dejah. It was corny and still lots of fun, and that’s coming from a woman who doesn’t usually like the genre.
Two chocolate morsels and a slug of Martian joy juice.