A Princess of Mars – Written by Edgar Rice Burroughs
From the beloved Tarzan series author Edgar Rice Burroughs came the tale of heroic John Carter in A Princess of Mars. I was very excited to read this book. As a sci-fi and fantasy genre fan I thought this classic would be fun to read and go hand in hand with the release of “John Carter” – Disney’s film adaptation of the story.
At almost 500 pages, A Princess of Mars is not nearly spectacular enough. It was incredibly tough for me to get through this novel for a number of technical reasons; Burroughs has an affinity for run on sentences and a total lack of commas. However, I mostly felt disconnect because there was no depth to the characters whatsoever. Our narrator and antagonist John Carter is so two dimensional. There was no reflection on his past life in Virginia, no emotional distress for miraculously ending up on Mars, and no validity to his love for Dejah Thoris. The only mild case of feeling I found was his friendship with Sola and her bond to Tars Tarkas, which was feeble at best. Perhaps I am missing something because I didn’t read the series as a whole, but I could barely make it through A Princess of Mars and I don’t know how anyone could continue with the series.
I don’t know what I was looking for with this novel but whatever it was, I didn’t find it. For me, a truly good book requires some sort of mutual understanding of the characters and a developed plot; these things were just not there with A Princess of Mars. It was a genuinely interesting idea and the world building was thorough and exceptional, but A Princess of Mars was too much action and not enough substance. In plain words, Burroughs’ novel was not my cup of tea.
“John Carter” – Directed by Andrew Stanton
Disney spent over 200 million to create this long-awaited adaptation. After reading Burroughs’ novel, I expected that this attributed to high quality CGI and digital effects, considering several of the main characters of this story are somewhat mythical. In this respect, “John Carter” did not disappoint. The intense imagery of Barsoom and its creatures (Green Martians, Woola, Thoats, etc) were pretty incredible and definitely respected the novelists’ original ideas.
However, that is probably where the praise for “John Carter” ends. Truth be told, I love sci-fi and fantasy, I love stories that transcend other worlds, and I love action and suspense in films. “John Carter” was unsuccessful in achieving any of these things and, as a whole, was void of any human emotion. Taylor Kitsch’s portrayal of John Carter and Lynn Collins’ portrayal of Dejah Thoris were pretty awful, although I don’t think it was entirely their faults. They became victim to over-acting in light of the outrageous fictional atmosphere and vivid concept of Barsoom, which caused John Carter and Dejah Thoris to seem out of touch and unrealistic. The last thing you ever want in a movie is for the viewer to genuinely not care about it’s main characters, and that is exactly how I felt watching “John Carter.” As for the action sequences, they were intense and ‘spectacular’ in a visual sense of the word but, personally, I felt a lot of it was pretty hokey. The musical score was kinda of corny and reminded me of a low-budget action film from the 80’s.
As far as staying true to the novel, “John Carter” was on and off. There were several scenes I recognized from the book, but the way the story flowed was much differently than in A Princess of Mars. Several changes were made from the start of the film; Dejah Thoris is betrothed before she even meets John Carter, we learn about the Ninth Ray much earlier on, and John Carter is not obly taken as prisoner by the Green Martians, but is treated with the same care as the infants.
To be quite honest, I had a hard time finishing this movie in the same way I had a hard time finishing the book. It is just not captivating. The story has potential but was poorly developed and, in the case of the movie, was too exuberant in its presentation and lacking relatable characters. Sorry Disney, but I have to agree with critics. “John Carter” was an epic flop.
Mook Rating – ★