Disney’s John Carter is a sword-and-planet space romance. If that’s what you’re after, you’re in luck.
It’s fun and trendy to trash science fiction and fantasy films that aren’t Very Serious Movies.
That’s what we’re seeing happen with Disney’s John Carter, a fun, campy action-adventure directed by Pixar’s Andrew Stanton, and written by Stanton, Mark Andrews, and novelist Michael Chabon.
John Carter is everything it’s supposed to be. And because it achieves exactly what it’s sets out to do, it’s no surprise that critics are panning it. For one thing, many reviewers of the film aren’t quite sure what to classify the film. The swashbuckling confuses them.
Take Roger Ebert, for instance, who writes:
When superior technology is at hand, it seems absurd for heroes to limit themselves to swords. When airships the size of a city block can float above a battle, why handicap yourself with cavalry charges involving lumbering alien rhinos? When it is possible to teleport yourself from Earth to Mars, why are you considered extraordinary because you can jump really high?
Such questions are never asked in the world of “John Carter,” and as a result, the movie is more Western than science fiction. Even if we completely suspend our disbelief and accept the entire story at face value, isn’t it underwhelming to spend so much time looking at hand-to-hand combat when there are so many neat toys and gadgets to play with?
Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a very particular sort of story, and it wasn’t really science fiction per se. Burroughs wrote his John Carter of Mars stories as planetary romances. The series fits into the ‘sword and planet’ niche – science fiction in appearances only. There is very little science, and quite a lot offiction.
John Carter isn’t so different than Burroughs’s other, and more famous, creation: Tarzan of the Apes. Both are adventure-style romances and neither pretends to be at all realistic.