Sunday, 17 June 2012

Review of "John Carter of Mars"


I watched three movies on the flight to NY. One of them was "John Carter of Mars".

Everyone knows Tarzan of course, but I have always been fascinated with Edgar Rice Burroughs's other creation. His series of stories about John Carter and Barsoom (Mars) simply weren't talked about much. I did come across the odd comic when I was a kid, and this only enhanced the air of suspense and mystery about John Carter's Mars. One of my comics ended on a cliff-hanger when the princess Dejah Thoris, having despatched four armour-wearing "instructoresses" in the arena, now faced a much more formidable challenger - a Green Martian. "And she stood with a smile on her lips to face death, as befits the daughter of ten thousand Jeddaks..." I never got to read the sequel.

That's why I could barely suppress my delight when I saw "John Carter of Mars" listed among the movies on Qantas's entertainment system, and that was the very first one I watched.

Well, what can I say? This was a fantastic movie, a real classic. I wonder why it didn't click in the theatres. Perhaps a combination of inadequate promotion and having the oxygen sucked out of the entertainment world by The Avengers contributed to the commercial flop.

But seriously, see it, people. This reviewer shares my enthusiasm.

This movie has everything, - adventure, fantasy, action, romance, a hero with courage and heart but a tragic past, a beautiful and strong warrior-princess (who is also a scientist - ticks all my boxes!), a hyper-cute dog-like monster, and the most chilling set of villains to come along in a while. It's very scary to think there can be a bunch of people older than all our civilisations who can manipulate us (Earthmen or Martians) into destroying ourselves - but gratifying that they too can be beaten.  

This is the second time Mars has re-entered my consciousness in a fortnight. Ray Bradbury's passing made me reflect on The Martian Chronicles, the red dust and the glass cities with their brittle spires. And now Edgar Rice Burroughs has deliciously assaulted my senses with this classic. (Mild spoiler: I simply loved the scene when John Carter first realises that Mars's low gravity effectively gives him super-strength.)

The best tribute to both these writers would be to describe "John Carter of Mars" with the title of one of Ray Bradbury's stories - "Mars is Heaven".

Oh, Barsoom!

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