SF elements: Barsoom
Disney bring Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom tales to the big screen, with probably the dullest title for a film in the history of cinema (apparently adding the descriptive "of Mars" would have jinxed the movie). John Carter of Virginia [Taylor Kitsch], an ex-Confederate officer, stumbles on a strange cave, and finds himself transported to land where he is able to perform great feats of leaping. Captured by strange six-limbed tusked green Tharks, led by Tars Tarkas [Willem Dafoe / CGI], wanting only to get home, he finds himself embroiled in a war between the great cities of Helium and Zodanga. The feisty Dejah Thoris [Lynn Collins], Princess of Helium, lets him know that he should be fighting on their side. Mayhem ensues.
Even dropping any mention of Mars from the title didn't help this at the box-office. Yet it is a perfectly fine blockbuster SF movie, with plenty of action, battles, monsters, and chase scenes. It is a bit overlong, and rather slow at the start, with some apparently unnecessary backstory; although that does become significant at the end, it could probably all have been dropped with no loss. But the action is good, and the special effects, particularly the hordes of Tharks, are well done. There is a cute little dog-like alien, but it isn't that annoying.
I read the Mars books several decades ago, and have forgotten most of the details (beyond the green Tharks, the "red men", the white apes, and the strange technological combination of flying boats, radium pistols and swords), but this seems to capture the mood of Barsoom very well. This Carter is a little less of the Virginian gentleman, which is probably a good thing. I am bemused by the ecosystem, though: what do the hordes of Tharks, red men, their large beasts of burden, and the enormous white apes, actually eat? (Apart from each other in some cases.) Everything else is parched desert on this dying planet.
Anyhow, ignore the critics, and wallow in some mindless fun, fighting, and special effects.
reviewed 14 July 2012