Wednesday, March 7, 2012


By D.E.Levine
This Walt Disney film is based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel "A Princess of Mars" and supposedly cost $250 million. I had no idea what to expect since the story deals with a young Civil War veteran who winds up on Mars. It's obvious that Burroughs, in the tradition of Jules Verne, was well ahead of the rest of society with his imagination when he penned the story over 100 years ago..

As the film begins, a young Burroughs (Daryl Sabara) is summoned to the home of his uncle, John Carter (Taylor Kitsch). Unfortunately, Burroughs arrives after his uncle has died and been entombed on his property in a tomb that only opens from the inside.

A journal left behind for young Edgar explains why John Carter spent most of his brief years between the Civil War and his death exploring all over the world. In the journal, Carter explains what he was searching for, how he became fabulously wealthy and eccentric, and why the fabulous and outrageous stories he told his nephew when he was younger, were actually true.

This is an unusual film in that it begins as a 19th century period piece with an eerie, mysterious feel and many unanswered questions surrounding John Carter's death. It moves on to become a Western and then morphs into a science fiction film set in a Western Dune-like environment.

After entering a cave on earth and encountering a strange creature, Carter wakes up on a totally different planet. He was transported by some unexplained means that is vaguely reminiscent of the transporter in Star Trek, but is tied to an amulet rather than a transporter station.

Of course, the environment is the exotic planet of Barsoom (Mars) where despite his reluctance, Carter becomes embroiled in the conflict raging on the planet which threatens the very existence of the planet and all its peoples.

Due to some strange bone density anomaly, Carter can defy gravity and jump great distances and hit hard, two attributes that attract the Tharks, 8-foot-tall, green, four-armed tribesmen. They capture Carter, take him back to their village tied up, and from them he learns about the warring factions on the planet.

Directed by Andrew Stanton, of Pixar and Finding Nemo fame, who was also a writer on the screenplay, the movie's special effects are breathtaking, especially in 3D, and obviously used a large part of the budget. The warriors are all dressed in armor that strangely resembles that of the ancient Romans.

While this is a movie of epic proportions, it is also 2 1/2 hours long and not all of the characters are well defined. In fact, visually, many of them resemble each other so closely that it's hard to differentiate the characters. There is of course, also, the obligatory romance between Carter and a Martian princess played by Lynn Collins.

Overall, John Carter is pure entertainment, thrilling to watch, with an impressive musical score. Whether or not it will be the blockbuster that Disney is hoping for remains to be seen.