Thanks to Phil Burger for sending me the link to this review of John Carter by multi-awarded sci-fi master Michael Moorcock, who is one of the great and most respected minds of science fiction. It’s a little late to be publishing this — but these are the John Carter Files and the files wouldn’t be complete without Moorcock’s take on the movie.
I’ve waited 67 years for this movie.
It was worth the wait.
It might be bothering people precisely because it isn’t generic in the sense that one fantasy/sf movie influences another, because this movie goes back to its roots and imagines A Princess of Mars in terms of its earliest illustrations — J.Allen St John in particular — and Burroughs’s sense of wonder. He wrote the book seemingly fascinated by his own imagination. He didn’t want people to think he was nuts (‘Normal Bean’) because he thought he might be nuts himself. In keeping the essence of the book in the movie (I do have some quibbles and this might not be a very commercial movie precisely because of its virtues) the makers offer much more than one simple narrative. I didn’t like the Virginia joke much but it helps identification with Tars Tarkas and his Tharks so that I, who spent his childhood yearning to be John Carter, wanted to be Tars Tarkas a few minutes in to the movie where it gets to Mars. They haven’t dumbed this down. They might have smartened it up and maybe that’s a problem with the movie — it adds a layer of rationalisation it probably doesn’t need. This is a movie I’m going to see once or twice again and then I’m getting the DVD so I can watch it a few more times when I get the urge. The Tharks, the fliers, the ‘9th ray’ and the rest are all great. I could have done with a little more landscape (I’ve said elsewhere how fundamental landscape is to the Western and how ERB’s Mars emerged from the landscapes of the South West) to suggest the distance, say, between Helium and Zodanga. I’m trying hard here to discuss the movie without giving anything away. I loved it. I’ll keep my reservations until we’ve all seen it. I’m very curious to read what everyone here thinks.
Divergence from the books include certain aspects of the Therns and a sense of what the 9th ray can do. I’m planning to see it again with a friend or two when it comes out.
Oh — and the red Martians ARE red and call themselves red. Is white John Carter maybe a Thern ? someone asks. The guys who made this are, as one said to me recently, true Barsoomheads. Studio might not know what it’s got and audiences might be charey, but Barsoom is definitely there on screen pretty much the whole time you’re watching.