by Wendy Wilde
I’ll be honest up front and confess that I love reading books, and I read the John Carter stories in my early teens, along with Tarzan, Dracula, and Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. So perhaps it isn’t surprising that, while I thoroughly enjoyed the books at the time, my memory of them has faded in comparison to the others, to the point where I had to find a synopsis of A Princess of Mars to remind me of the story line.
That said, I approached this movie with some trepidation, because I really want it to be good. It needs to be close enough to the original story to satisfy the die-hard fans of the book, but updated enough to be relevant to a modern audience. I have to say that I feel that this movie manages to please me on both counts.
While certain aspects of the beginning of the story have been changed to allow for modern sensitivities, and an uber antagonist appears to have been added (perhaps from a later novel in the series – I only read the first three), the movie follows the storyline of the book reasonably closely, though I can only imagine that Carter was a bit less of a wise-ass in the book… he reminds me in some scenes of a Clint Eastwood character.
The visuals are, as would be expected, a feast for the eyes. Barsoom is realized with epic grandeur, and the CGI of the six and eight-limbed inhabitants of the planet are artfully accomplished, being brought to life by the actors under the effects quite convincingly. Most importantly, Dejah Thoris is beautiful and a kick-ass warrior to boot, and there is a definite Leia/Solo vibe to the relationship between the two main characters.
Those totally unfamiliar with the books may have a little trouble keeping tabs on who is fighting who – two humanoid groups and the six-limbed Tharks, not to mention the mysterious antagonist who seems to be behind the conquest of Sab Than, leader of one of the human factions. But the heroic action and ferocious battle scenes are leavened with some moments of real – and unexpected – humor.
So all in all, I think this movie has potential. It will draw you in if you let it, and I can definitely see it becoming a franchise. I hope it does, because I am already yearning for a sequel!
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