Bob Page made a comment to the effect that he thought Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris was very strong and very good, and I seconded that comment. To be absolutely clear — I thought Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris was one of the very best things about the movie, and there was a lot about the movie that I liked, and continue to like.
That said, Bob’s comment got me to thinking. When we have all these discussions about the the changes to John Carter’s character, we never really talk about how the changes to Dejah’s character may have driven some of what we are perceiving about John Carter. In other words — did changes in Dejah’s character that have been widely accepted as somewhere on the spectrum from ‘okay’ to ‘excellent’ changes have unintended — and possibly negative — effects on the perception of John Carter’s character?
Puhlease understand I’m not bashing anyone . . . . I’m just trying to puzzle this out a bit.
Let me take a crack at explaining.
In the book, Dejah is courageous, beautiful, intelligent — not a warrior but when she has to, she grabs a knife and attacks Sarkoja to help save John Carter. She agrees to marry Sab Than out of duty to Helium even though she doesn’t love him sacrificing herself for the greater good. She’s not a warrior — but she’s no shrinking violet and she’s capable of taking up arms and getting physical when its’ really called for.
In the book, John Carter doesn’t save her in the airship battle — he only glimpses her as she’s being brought in as a captive, then later sees her in full for the first time when she is brought before Lorquas Ptomel and makes her eloquent speech before the assembled Thark leadership. She is, from the beginning, someone whom Carter yearns for — first because she’s the only human he’s seen after months with the Tharks, and secondly because she is beautiful, courageous, etc.
But in no way is she the prime mover of the story.
In Stanton’s JC, there is the byplay during the air battle where she handles a sword as well (some would say better) than John Carter, and in which she shows a sassiness, even aggressiveness, in her interactions with him. This continues in the scene where he figures out he’s on Mars and she teases him – “Shock me”, and all that. Then there is the fact that Dejah in the movie basically drives the whole middle section of the movie by hijacking Carter from his quest for the Gates of Iss, instead trying to take him to Helium. When she is found out, they do go to the gates of Iss, but even then, she has the initiative because it is then that she learns how to send him back to Earth, but she doesn’t tell him. She hides her knowledge in order to keep him doing what she wants, and it’s only later, after the Warhoon attack, and as she is about to marry Sab Than …. that she relents and says yes, I know how to get you back to Jasoom, I didn’t really need to go back to Helium to figure it out.
Through it all, she is a very strong character who knows what she wants and, in her quest to get what she wants, kind of puts John Carter back on his heels a bit. I guess the question is — does this contribute to and amplify John Carter’s whole “reluctant hero” vibe, perhaps pushing it a little bit over the edge from “intriguing reluctant hero” to In the book Dejah is this hugely desirable but unobtainable object of desire, whereas in the movie she’s plenty attractive but she’s the one taking the initiative in many of the interactions, and she’s several steps ahead of Carter in many ways.
Does this add to the “problem” of John Carter’s character by throwing off the balance, and accentuating his conflicted nature. Would the same John Carter have been any less “damaged goods” if Dejah had been characterized differently?
I’m not sure. But I’m thinking about it.