Normally when studios base a film on the book, instead of releasing a “novelization” they simply re-release the original novel with the films poster as the cover of the book, or a random screenshot of the movie. That is standard, and it is lazy and cheap, and profitable! But here is the enigma, John Carter is based on a novel, A Princess of Mars, but instead of just re-releasing the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, Disney has released a “novelization” based on the screenplay. So they made a movie based on a novel, and then released a new “novelization” based on the movie, which is based on another book. Normally when anything is adapted to another format there is significant losses and changes, and the novelization is a far ways away from “A Princess of Mars”.
And it gets weirder of course, this novelization book release also includes Burroughs original text of “A Princess of Mars” after the novelization. Plus — it includes the forward by Edgar Rice Burroughs BEFORE BOTH. In a way this reads like, you’re getting to know burroughs, understanding the adventure John Carter had, and then reading the book Ed wrote about his uncles adventures . . . and it works pretty well.
The book itself is a paperback, it does not have a glossy cover, except for John Carters silhouette on the front and the synopsis on the back. There is also a few wonderful full color photographs of the character in the middle of the book, the placement of these should have been between the novelization text and the princess of mars text . . . but these are still pretty good even though it’s a standard in movie novelizations..
I have read the book and thus spoiling the movie for myself, I made a bit of a sacrifice but I couldn’t be any happier about it! Here below are my complete review of the text of the novelization, and thus effectively a pre-review of the film in a watered-down state (a novelization of a film is never as good as the film). There will be minor spoilers!
And an added thought, I think the book is entirely based on the movie with the author not adding anything in!
So the story begins like you would expect, I am surprised at the direction they took with the beginning of the story, but it works! I was surprised that they maintained one aspect from the original book, very surprised and pleasantly so because I myself if adapting it would have possibly changed it.
ONWARD TO MARS, it is a great beginning of mars, and it is surprisingly refreshing to read the same scenario in different words, and the authors writing conveys it pretty well actually.
As it continues it’s a fairly faithful adaption, but I feel like the savagery and ignorance of the tharks is on full force display here, but in a different way than Burroughs wrote it. In its own way it is good, and unfortunately I feel the need to showcase one spoiler, and this is something I wish Burroughs would have thought of. the green martians have their antennae, but these aren’t ears its their nostrils for burying themselves in the sand . . . I feel like Burroughs is kicking himself in his grave for not thinking of that, it’s the kind of weird alien stuff that Burroughs loved to do.
John Carter isn’t warming up to the Tharks, but he isn’t as huge of a jerk to them as he was in the original book which I kind of like . . . I feel myself liking this version of John Carter better in some ways, he seems like a multi-layered intelligent character.
Tars Tarkas’ story in the original book is not here, neither is Solas story, sola has a new story and new character arch that I really really love, it shows the aspects of her character that I love in a different way, she is the only character I can say is the same person. Tars Tarkas, his story is derived from Solas story in the book actually, since his story from the book has been given to John Carter . . . and it works surprisingly! There is a beautiful moment where John Carter and Tars Tarkas click; you can tell these guys are going to be best friends for the rest of their lives!
Dejah Thoris, she has a very very very very very different story-arch, but I actually appreciate the planning for the character. She is incredibly forward thinking and skeptical, and she comes off not as a warrior of a scientist and a scholar. There is some friction between her and John Carter, but they get over it. I don’t feel like their romance is as strong as it was in the original book, but I also feel like there is more reason for it here.
And from here I am not going to spoil it, because things progress at a faster rate from this point onwards, there are things I didn’t like, things that I liked very much. Head scratching differences, lines that make me squeal like a fan-girl, and there are groan-worth lines! But it’s a fun ride, and I find that it was a good book and if this is an indication the film will be amazing! It might not get the success it deserves, but it will be a good film! And a thorough tribute to Burroughs, even in regards to humor there are some moments that reminded me of the humor in the venus series!
after reading the novelization (and thus understanding the film)
I have to ask myself a few questions
is it barsoom? is it burroughs? and is it “A Princess of Mars”?
Yes, to me it is Barsoom! It changes things, it moves alot of details around! It cuts out some larger details, but it gets enough small things right . . . it feels like Barsoom too me
Almost, not quite Burroughs, it doesnt exactly follow his formula . . . but it was very near, and I think burroughs would have thoroughly enjoyed it.
no . . . it’s not a princess of mars . . . if princess of mars is a roast, then this is a hamburger . . . good in its own way, made from the same parts, vaguely similar in taste . . . but not the same thing.
My final thoughts (spoilers)
there was three crowning moments of awesome for me
The mentioning of the Green Horde of Torquas, which aren’t mentioned until the fourth book in the John Carter series and are not exactly an important; his small detail but it means soooooo much, it made me drop the book in shock!
The River Iss, its waters are exactly as Burroughs briefly described them at the beginning of Warlord of Mars, an inconsequential detail that is universally not noticed. Again, I was shocked!
And there are banths . . . they play a very small role, but they are mentioned! And I was happy about that!