Transwarp Tuesday! John Carter

When two tribes go to war…


Having recently read and loved Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars – I was intrigued to see how Disney had dealt with it.

So in a departure from the norm, it’s a movie review for this week’s…


* * * * * * *


Disney does Edgar Rice Burroughs!






Lynn Collins and Taylor Kitsch as Dejah Thoris and John Carter
Lynn Collins and Taylor Kitsch as Dejah Thoris and John Carter

Two Martian tribes are at war – the Heliumites and the Zodangans, who for ease we shall think of as the goodies and the baddies. But the baddies are being helped by a mysterious race of superbeings known as the Thern, who have given them the ability to harness the ninth ray of the sun and use it as a super weapon. As the goodies face certain defeat, the leader of the Zodangans offers to spare them from destruction if the Heliumite Princess, Dejah Thoris, agrees to be his bride.

Meantime, back on Earth, ex-Confederate Army Captain John Carter takes refuge from a horde of attacking Apache warriors in a mysterious cave, where he meets a passing Thern and is accidentally transported to Barsoom, which we Earthlings know as the Red Planet – Mars! Once there, he finds the lower gravity gives him superior strength and the ability to jump really high and really far. Captured by Tharks (14-ft tall, six-limbed, green, horned, pretty ugly), he falls in love with the thankfully human-looking Dejah Thoris and is gradually sucked into the ongoing war…


The plot of the film is a simplified version of the plot of the book, which in truth was already fairly simple. The scriptwriters have tried to make sense of some of the gaping plot holes in the book by introducing the Thern, thus providing an explanation for how John Carter got to Mars. They’ve also changed Dejah Thoris a bit to make her more acceptable to modern audiences. She already had a reasonably heroic role in the book but in the film she is kickass! Truly! And intelligent, gorgeous, scantily clad, interestingly tattooed and a bit of a flirt. A description that works equally well for John Carter, minus the tattoos…and possibly the intelligence.

Some people say women can't be warriors...but I bet they don't say it when Dejah's around...
Dejah Thoris in warrior mode…

However the writers (who somewhat amazingly include Michael Chabon) have got rid of most of the stuff about the society of the Tharks, which personally I felt was one of the more interesting features of the book. Oddly, though, they left little bits in but without much explanation, so that I wondered whether I’d have struggled to follow the plot (such as it is) if I hadn’t read the book. For instance, the big reveal about Tars Tarkas being Sola’s father really needed the background filled out to show why it was important – that is, that in Thark society, love between adults is taboo; eggs are laid and children brought up by the community rather than by biological parents.

Thark on a thoat...
Thark on a thoat…

Instead the film concentrates almost entirely on fighting and battles interspersed with the John Carter/Dejah Thoris love story. This works well in terms of the CGI – overall they do a good job of all the different creatures of Burroughs’ imagination* and the very Disney-style battles involve a lot of fun and exciting fighting and killing, while keeping it almost entirely gore-free – with the exception of the blue blood of the great White Ape, and that was really just splattered about for its humorous value. And obviously only the baddies die, and they all deserve it, so the feel-good factor is not disrupted.

(*Special mention must go to Woola – the dog-like creature. I was somewhat disappointed that they didn’t go for the full ten legs, but they got his massive grin and cuddly personality. On the other hand (pun intended), they went for the simplest version possible of giving the Tharks an extra pair of arms, which wasn’t really how Burroughs described them. He said the extra limbs could operate as either arms or legs as circumstances required… I suspect either CGI or the special effects guys’ imaginations must still have limitations.)

Woola...four legs missing, but still smiling...
Woola…four legs missing, but still smiling…

A fun adventure, as silly and inconsistent as the book but in different ways. I’m not sure I’d be nominating it for Oscars for the script or indeed the acting; and I suspect I wouldn’t have enjoyed it half as much if I hadn’t read the book. But it has lots of heroics, a good deal of humour, a nice little romance (despite my severe disappointment that they cut the bit about Dejah laying an egg) and the special effects looked pretty good to my untutored eye. Overall, the full two hours and a bit passed very entertainingly.

Little Green Men Rating: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

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23 thoughts on “Transwarp Tuesday! John Carter

  1. FictionFan – I love it that you’ve chosen to review a film. And I’m glad you thought this one was good fun, even if it wasn’t exactly deep, meaningful or contemplative. And I agree; those special effects look quite good.


  2. *laughing* Now I appear like I’m always wrong! And you should make film reviews regular! I loved this.

    But…but…but…but…you called John Carter stupid! Dejah did try and manipulate him often. (I think he should have left her, you know.) The Tharks weren’t ugly! Well, maybe they were. I’d be a Thark.

    Now a question does remain: Will FEF ever smile like Woola again?


    • *laughing* I know – it was very mean of me! I’m sorry! Ooh, no – I don’t think I could bring myself to watch enough films!

      I did not! I merely implied…hinted…! Dejah was very cool, but she really didn’t need John Carter – she could easily have fought all her own battles. I guess she just wanted him to feel useful. (He did! Silly man! Throwing away his medallion…tchah!) You couldn’t be a Thark – they don’t even have noses, much less pretty pink ones!

      Only when the Professor makes me… *smiles as big as Woola*


      • Don’t worry about it! The studio thinks I’m wrong all the time. The professor is used to it! Yes, that would be problem. I suppose you could make them up.

        Well if she didn’t need him, why’d she beg him to help her? See? Carter was a warrior. (I mean when he threw her off the thoat… It was stupid that he threw that away. I wouldn’t have!) *laughs* Maybe I don’t have a nose!

        *laughing lots* It looks wonderful.


        • Ah! I thought you would find it funny, but since it appears you didn’t, I’ve removed it.

          Because she liked his biceps. So was Dejah! (What? Just before he took the Thark army to the wrong city?) Well, I suppose that’s a possibility…

          But generally I try not to let my tongue loll quite so much when I smile…


  3. Sounds great fun – I have been avoiding this as I usually do “films of the Book”, but I’ll have to make an exception for this one. 🙂


  4. Wait…. Michael Chabon was one of the screen-writers for this film?? This is the most shocking thing I’ve learned since…. well, since I watched one of those alarming food documentaries that make you never want to eat again. Michael Chabon?? I’ve just seen this movie ripped apart on countless websites. Wasn’t it such a big flop it almost put Disney out of business?


    • I know – I was shocked too! And furthermore, apparently the scriptwriters were nominated for a Nebula award! Yes, it did get a poor reception but I think it did reasonably well in audience numbers – just not well enough to recoup the enormous cost. I don’t know whether anyone who wasn’t a fan of the book would enjoy the film, but I found it good fun seeing how they’d brought Edgar Rice Borroughs’ imagination to life.


  5. The fact that I liked this may be for rather obvious reasons that are not at all linked to my cinematic tastes. I’m just interested in the intricate design on the breastplate which that rather skinny long haired man is wearing, you understand


    • Tut-tut! You’re soooo shallow – unlike myself. I posted these pictures only to show the wonderful art of the wardrobe- mistresses (or masters) – the fact that there happened to be a hunk inside the costume is purely coincidental…


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