I imagine John Carter sticks pretty closely to its 1917 source material, albeit in noticeably condensed form. It is never all that gripping because we know oh so well what’s around every corner. Testament to the influence of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ silly pulp tales perhaps, but along with the Princess of Mars narrative the Disney blockbuster carries its antiquated, and pretty colonial, attitude. When he meets sexy-and-also-helpfully-humanoid princess Dejah Thoris for the first time, our titular hero calls war “a shameful thing”. She corrects him: “Not when a noble cause is taken up by those who can make a difference.” Carter’s development is, of course, to forget his silly conscientious objection nonsense, though the emphasis is probably modern.
On the other hand, the material brings a steampunk-esque appeal to the sci-fi, more concerned with imagining the effects of differences in gravity than holograms and robots. This was my chief enjoyment. Young viewers might be entranced by the exotic array of creatures, but the film occasionally suffers from some very dodgy FX. Despite this, it is a pity the film performed so poorly at the box office. It is not a bad piece, not nearly as much as some reviews suggest, though equally it rarely rises to greatness.
In the end what we have is a enjoyably silly, pulpy movie with ideological flaws abound. The DVD cover boasts a review calling it “Star Wars for a new generation”. Funny, that’s right on the money.