John Carter

When I was a kid, I read Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Barsoom (Mars) novels. The first few, anyway. I don’t remember much about them, except that the characters struck me as a bit slow. It would take them a long time to figure out things that were immediately obvious to me. So I stopped reading them. However, I’m told that some people have fond memories of these books. One of these is the director, Andrew Stanton, who in John Carter, based on the first novel of the series, A Princess of Mars, has recreated in loving detail Burroughs’s fantasy vision of Mars. I’m starting to think that perhaps I was too hard on the books, for I found this film entertaining, a pleasant way to pass two hours. No one does anything really dumb, except for John Carter, who throws away a medallion that enables him to travel between Earth and Mars. (This turns out to be a big mistake.) One thing that did bother me is that there are a lot of sword fights in this film. I’ve never understood why they have sword fights in science fantasy movies. Why would people who have the technology to make guns use swords? (This is one of the problems I’ve always had with the Star Wars films.)

John Carter cost an enormous amount of money to make, and it is widely believed that it will end up losing money. I think that is a shame, for – dare I say it? – this is actually a better film than Martin Scorceses’s Hugo or Stephen Speilberg’s The Adventures of Tintin. The action scenes all advance the story, and the characters are believable (within the logic of their fantasy world, that is). And there are none of those annoying slow-motion shots that mar Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows.

John Carter is played by an actor with the perhaps unfortunate name of Taylor Kitsch. I must say he acquits himself reasonably well in the role. His love interest, Princess Dejah Thoris, is played by Lynn Collins, who is extremely good (think of a sort of an American version of Noomi Rapace).

In perhaps the ultimate nerd touch, we are told that this film is dedicated to Steve Jobs, who, we are told, “inspired us all”. Really? By making overpriced gadgets and exploiting cheap labor in China? Would John Carter have approved of that?

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