It’s taken the best part of eight decades, but finally, an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burrroughs’ A Princess Of Mars has arrived on the big screen. But given how much the source novel and its follow-ups have inspired other sci-fi fantasies over the years, fromStar Wars to Avatar, how will director Andrew Stanton’s movie stand up?
From John Carter’s opening frame, it’s clear that Stanton’s brought all the passion he has for the source material to bear on this lavish adaptation. In a dizzying aerial battle, we’re introduced to a mythical version of Mars (here called Barsoom), a dying planet of warring factions and weird creatures, ornate aircraft with dragonfly wings, towering architecture and parched deserts.
Thanks to the manipulation of the mischievous, evil Matai Shang (Mark Strong) two cities of rival Red Martians, Zodanga and Helium, are locked in perpetual war. The king of Helium, Tardos Mors (Ciarán Hinds) hopes that, by offering Sab Than (Dominic West) the hand of his daughter Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins), his city will be spared from destruction from the devastating weapon that Shang has created.
If the brief bit of plot blurted out above sounds confusing, imagine how confusing it must be to John Carter (Taylor Kitsch). At the start of the film, he’s a war-weary, bearded confederate soldier who, for reasons I won’t relate here, finds himself transported to the planet Barsoom and into the middle of yet another civil war.