by Terence Bowman for Den of Geek: Adaptations of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novels haven’t fared well in the past, so can Andrew Stanton’s John Carter break the cycle? Terence finds out…
Published on Mar 7, 2012
This Friday, one of science fiction and fantasy writer Edgar Rice Burroughs’ most popular characters is finally making his big screen debut. And it’s not that yelling guy in the loin cloth who hangs out with apes. No, the movie is about Burroughs’ other most popular character, John Carter of Mars.
Primarily known as the creator of Tarzan of the Apes, Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950) wrote an estimated 70 novels featuring a wide array of different characters and their stories. Most of his books are still in print today (there are 539 Burroughs titles available from the Kindle store alone). 62 years after his death, Burroughs continues to be one of the genre’s most venerated old-school pulp adventure writers.
Burroughs, however, has not had a great history when it comes to motion pictures. You could call it the Edgar Rice Burroughs movie curse. While often financially successful, big screen adaptations of his work have largely been B-movie fare, often aimed at younger and less discriminating audiences. Some of the Burroughs’ movies have risen above their lower echelon cinematic status, but not many. The new Disney produced John Carter movie may reverse the trend, but the odds are not in the blockbuster’s favour.
A Princess Of Mars is the first of 11 Carter novels written by Burroughs between 1912 (this year marks the centenary of the debut of both Tarzan and Carter) and 1948. John Carter is an American Civil War veteran who, while searching for gold in a mysterious cave in Arizona, finds himself ethereally transported to Mars. It’s similar to the out-of-body adventure premises used in The Matrix and Avatar (only Burroughs did it 90 or so years before both of them). Due to the effects of Mars’ gravity, Carter is able to leap long distances and has great physical strength. He quickly becomes a key player in an epic fantasy adventure as different Martian races battle over the fate of the future of Mars (or Barsoom, as it is known to its inhabitants).