Michael Moorcock’s Review of John Carter: “It was worth the wait…”

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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. ┬áIt’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.




  • Moorcock multiverse-set movies might be fun!
    They have used his Jerry Cornelius character in The Final Programme/The Last Days of Man on Earth.

  • There should be no question about the Studio completing the trilogy, at the least. After the appalling marketing,the management not supporting the movie and the Studio trying to write it off as a tax loss, it still made $300 million at the box office and is set to make substantial money on DVD,etc. Virtually everyone that sees it loves it…..a real family fantasy adventure in the style of Davy Crockett. Come on Disney wake up!

  • I’m glad to see this positive review from a respected science fiction writer. Hope his opinion will help influence those with the power to make the sequels!

  • Thanks for sharing this, both Dotar Sojat and Michael Moorcock. Mr. Moorcock has been a fan favorite in his own right, with Elric and others in the Eternal Champion books. He has had his own foray into ERBdom. Seeing his views on the movie is greatly appreciated. I am glad you posted this, even though late in coming. His assessment of the studio not knowing what they have is right on the mark. Again, thank you very much.

  • Now Michael Moorcock and I have two things very much in common: A love of the great music group Hawkwind, and now the amazing movie John Carter. Awesome.

  • So love to read this and I completely understand his complaints, but I found that the more I saw it and the more details I found, the less those things stood out to me. Put you a bet it was the same way for him when he saw it subsequent times.

  • I love to see when someone well respected gets it! Thanks for posting, Michael!!

  • This review reminds me that Moorcock is one of the few fantasy author never adapted in a movie. Where are those Elric and Hawkmoon movies??

  • Oh, I’m glad you posted that, that is my story to a tee. I am well aware of it’s faults and differences from the books but I still loved it because I felt like I was in that world of those familiar stories for those two hours.

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