Doggone it, if Walt's kids were gonna bother to make the film, why didn't they promote it worth a damn?
I watched John Carter on the Roku this afternoon.
While they rearranged the plot (or plots) of A Princess of Mars somewhat -- looks like they were after sharpening the conflict and playing up the wheels-within-wheels aspects Burroughs developed -- they treated the original characters with respect. Sadly, if you didn't already know Kantos Kan, as cheerfully go-to-hell a warrior as any before or since, you might overlook him and the complex personality of Tars Tarkas isn't given as much attention as I would have liked. (Some people have complained there were too many Tharks. I dunno; you do need enough to maintain a viable breeding population.) The original story has a kind of Victorian/Edwardian feel and ethos and it probably should have been treated as even more of a period piece than it was -- in this context, read "period piece" as "wholesome adventure," in which mad notions like Honor, Duty, Square Dealing and True Love drive the story. Captain John Carter of Virginia may be tormented but he's not angsty.
The Martian "dog" is a spot-on bit of Burroughs business, froggy face and all. --Wide shots of ancient, ruined Mars (whoa, is that a cliff or a building?) capture very much the sense of the planet I picked up from the books and Helium is plausible -- I'm not so sure about the crawling predator city of Zodanga, which I think gets more screen time than it merits. On the other hand, Dejah Thoris looks just about exactly as I pictured her. John Carter? Not as experienced-looking as he ought to be but the actor did his best; it's not the poor guy's fault nothing's uglied him up any.
But a better film than its box-office returns implied and a real treat for anyone familiar with the books. Sadly, we're not likely to get any more, at least this go-round. A lot of the blame for that has to go to Disney, which had changes at the top between approving the film and releasing it, and which seems to have shied away from spending very much to tell people about it.
...Dammit, it's Barsoom. How could they have treated this film like a red-headed stepchild? Yet they did; it's on pay-per-view now and will be at your local or online video store shortly. Buy it. Watch it. It's two and a quarter hours of good entertainment.
YANKEE RADIO TOOL KIT, #106
4 weeks ago