Hells Bells, Disney finally got one right, or almost right anyway! John Carter, the film, is more or less true to Edgar Rice Burrow’s creation. The film is largely a modernized retelling of Burrow’s Princess of Mars, which began as a pulp magazine serialization that evolved into the first of an eleven volume series of novels concerning the Martian civilization, (which ran a distant second to his much more popular Tarzan series.)
Save for that annoying Martian lipstick that won’t smear under any circumstances, and the two spherical moons (Mars’ moons are “potato” shaped) that seem to rise together in the same phase and aspect to one another indefinitely, it is the best Disney romp since “The Rocketeer,” twenty years ago. Of course inserting Mark Strong and Ciaran Hinds into any film is always a good idea as they can bring credibility to even the most preposterous roles and ludicrous situations with their incredible delivery and stage presence.
For those who don’t know, John Carter is a relic, a symbol of antebellum Virginia aristocracy, somewhat lost in the early twentieth century who through a complex form of astral projection lives a swashbuckling life on a very much alive Mars—Barsoom to its inhabitants. Given the greater gravity on earth, he is exceptionally strong and agile on the smaller planet. The film moves the dates back into the years immediately following the civil war, and tosses in a secondary earth-tale book-ending his exploits on Barsoom. Carter’s “immortality” has been forgotten in the film, which can be forgiven, as it was a cumbersome device at best. The tale concerns bringing stability to the warlike inhabitants to counteract the withering of the natural resources, thanks to the meddling of some very nasty outsiders. And John’s gravity defying abilities have been somewhat heightened, to varying degrees, depending upon the scene.
Taylor Kitch manages the pulp action role just fine as does Lynn Collins as the strong willed sword swinging love interest/princess. The six limbed green warriors, Tharks, and their various six limbed animals are a hoot as are the nifty flying machines, part dragonfly, part bicycle, part flat top. There are ruins aplenty, an ominous walking city, and another pair of stationary cities that lend credence to the action.
As to the lousy to middling reception by the official critics, and its coming in a distant second at the box office to the very inflated Dr. Seuss animated feature, “The Lorax,” (quite possibly the least of the good Dr's books) one can only lament the fact that imagination is becoming a most precious commodity and that some people’s taste is limited to their tongues.
Two more films were envisioned, and will probably be shelved unless you get off your lazy butt and down to the theater to watch this one, thank you very much.