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Examining the Essential Elements of John Carter March 30, 2012

Posted by geoff in News.

I’ve been a huge fan of the Princess of Mars series for nearly 40 years. I have all 11 books in the series, as well as all four books of ERB’s other, lesser-known series, Carson of Venus. I even have most of the Jandar of Callisto series – a virtual clone of PofM by Lin Carter.

In short, I’m pretty hardcore when it comes to swashbuckling adventure with a healthy sprinkling of sci-fi.

So my daughter and I went to see John Carter 3D last night, and I thought I’d share a few impressions; particularly since there have been a lot of very negative reviews floating about the web. So here it is broken down by my personal categories for rating movies (which may stray a bit from Ebert’s).

  • Swashbuckling (B+): The movie never developed a true sense of swashbucklery, hampered largely by the writers’ focus on Carter’s disillusionment with noble causes. And oddly, after all that focus, the dang writers forgot to fix his disillusionment. Instead they have him decide to fight for love, which is nice, but not nearly as noble as fighting for freedom for the peoples of Mars. Reluctant heroes brooding over past tragedy don’t swashbuckle well.
  • Sword-Fighting (B+): The books are all about these amazing sword fights, reminiscent of the movies from 80 years ago. In modern times, I don’t think anybody would have minded if they’d upgraded the sword fights with some Yuen Woo Ping-type action (like Yoda w/a light saber, for example). But no, pretty conventional hack-‘n-slash stuff.
  • Eye-Candy (A-): Can’t speak for the ladies’ level of satisfaction, but I was a little disappointed with the babe content. Not that Dejah Thoris wasn’t quite the hottie – she was obviously assembled by first-class artisans. But she’s pretty much the only woman in the movie. They should have written the story to spend a little less time with the Tharks (thus saving money on CGI), and more with the babespeople of Helium.
  • Buddy Relationship (C): As long as you’re rewriting portions of the story, you should go ahead and take advantage of the things you’re doing right. Kantos Kan was turning out to be a great character, and would have made an excellent bud for John Carter (as well as lightening up a lot of the movie), but we only really get to enjoy him in one scene. Guys love a buddy movie, and this could have been a good one.
  • Amazingly Creative Death Scenes (D): It’s like they didn’t even try.
  • Special Effects & CGI (A): As long as you’re going to blow your budget and make a movie that is hugely in the hole from the start, you might was well make the coolest aliens ever. And that’s what they did. Awesome job on the Tharks.

Overall I’d give the movie an A-. It’s biggest weakness is that they tried to cover too much ground, so they skipped over a lot of development and exposition. A couple more scenes each would have really helped cement the romance between John and Dejah, the brutal culture of the Tharks, the virtues of the society of Helium, etc. If you have read the books it’s a little annoying to see some of the explanations crammed in at the last minute as an afterthought, but if you haven’t, then you end up baffled and really irritated (like many of the reviewers on-line).

But I liked it. The daughter liked it. You just might like it, too.


1. Michael - March 30, 2012

Pretty much the best movie review I’ve ever read, except there’s no chart.

2. Michael - March 30, 2012

And if there’s really only one hot chick in the movie, I’ll wait until I can get the Blue-Ray DVD on Netflix.

3. RetRsvMike - March 30, 2012

i concur in your review entirely. nicely captured.

4. digitalbrownshirt - March 31, 2012

I still haven’t seen it even though I loved the books in high school. It got so many bad reviews it just didn’t seem worth the money. I’ll make sure I check it out when it comes to DVD though.

5. Retired Geezer - March 31, 2012

At Camp Geezer ™, we rarely pay full price to see movies. We wait until they come to (I guess you would call them) Second Run theaters.
It’s only $2 normally and $1 on Tuesday.


We bit our cheek and opened our wallets to go see Hunger Games.
I’m glad we did.
We went to the first of 22 showings at our nearby Digital theater. We only had about 20 other souls with us at that hour. Didn’t have to deal with a crowd, in fact we were the only people in our row.

I haven’t read any of the books, but I plan to.

6. digitalbrownshirt - March 31, 2012

My daughter went to the midnight release of Hunger Games. They got there late and had to sit in the front row, but they still loved it. I’ll probably still wait until it comes out on video though. I just don’t go to movies often. No time and I’m cheap. 🙂

7. BrewFan - April 1, 2012

My childrens chipped in to take me to the Hunger Games last night. Excellent adaptation of the novel and an excellent movie in its own right. 5 out of 5 mockingjays.

8. Retired Geezer - April 1, 2012

I was doing yard work outside yesterday and heard an intricate bird song. Immediately I heard an identical response from a different direction.
I’m pretty sure it was a Western Meadowlark.

It’s hard to convey the bird song in writing but it was at least 15 notes long. The other bird’s response was pretty much the same notes.

I listened for about 5 minutes until they flew away.

9. Retired Geezer - April 1, 2012

Here’s a video. My bird’s song was about twice as long.

10. lauraw - April 1, 2012

How lovely, Geezer. I really enjoy it when the song sparrows get real close to me on a branch and have a little sing.

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