It took 100 years for Edgar Rice Burrough’s epic saga of the red planet Barsoom to make it to the big screen, and oh, what an adaptation it is! Lavished with a budget that was reputedly around $250 million, director Andrew Stanton has crafted the first really fun, sweeping science fiction saga of the 21st century. Yes, it’s that good a film, huge in concept and tremendous in execution.
The film is set at the tail end of the American Civil War and John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is a recalcitrant soldier who is more interested in questing for gold in the mountains than fighting with the troops. He escapes the brig and mysteriously finds himself on another planet, where the difference in gravity means he has super strength, the ability to leap hundreds of feet and the power to battle much bigger creatures.
Barsoom is in the midst of a thousand-year-long war of its own, the Zodangans versus the more peaceful residents of Helium. Sab Than (Dominic West) leads the Zodangans, with secret assistance from the malevolent Matai Shang (Mark Strong) of the Therns, while King Tardos Mors (Ciaran Hinds) leads the Heliumites. It’s his daughter, Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) who serves as the love interest, and she beguiles Carter into getting involved in the battle.
‘John Carter’ (original production name: ‘John Carter of Mars’) is a love story about a man finding his mission in life, but it’s just as much a fun, often-whimsical movie about a completely new world populated with strange and interesting creatures (notably the “dog” creature Woola, a creature I’d like to own myself!), astonishing cities and curious customs.
Behind the scenes here at ScienceFiction.com I get a lot of grief for always complaining about new sci-fi movies and never liking anything. This film shows the naysayers that it’s just not true. I really enjoyed ‘John Carter’, and smiled throughout, happily enjoying one of the best sweeping epic sci-fi films since the release of ‘Star Wars’ and its introduction of a completely new galaxy. I even liked the smart twist at the end, and that is unusual for me. I just hope ‘John Carter’ is a commercial success so we can see sequels down the road.