John Carter, an ORIGINAL story by Eric Holland

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by Eric Holland (a friend of John Carter and the John Carter Files)

I think one of the things that threw off many of the reviewers with John Carter is the undeniable familiarity of the story. The ideas, the story, the setting . . . is all familiar, and according to movie critics this is the worst thing imaginable. I had to take a moment to step back and look at the film, and really think about it and comparison to other films, and I think that it did things very differently than most film, and I am going to highlight the differences here. And I am also going to discuss originality.

Things it did differently!

John Carter is a story about a man who goes to another world, this itself seems overdone in fiction but the means of his transport is fairly unique and not understood by him.

The first thing that happens is that he falls flat on his face, and he learns to just in the gravity of the world. It may be exaggerated but just about all science fiction flat-out refuse to acknowledge difference in gravity, this never happens in star wars (even if you pick the expanded universe clean).

There is hope for the main character as well, he actually is capable of enjoying his new abilities. Despite the living hell that is his life THERE IS HOPE FOR HIM, almost every character that is like this, with a troubled past, if they had been put in the situation would have groughly sad “I didn’t ask for this abilitiy, why do you torture me more god with pointless gifts”. But John Carter sees a gift, and he enjoys it. You are immediately cemented with a character in the movie . . . who may have problems, but at his heart is still a human being!

The Tharks are one of the things the movie does well, I have seen critics complaining about how Tharks seem to be trying too hard to be different. But the tharks just are not good people, they kill unborn children, they torture their own kind, they laugh at pain and the suffering of others. I have seen them compared with the na’vi far too many times, but we aren’t expected to think that the Tharks are a morally superior super-race. We are not told that the thrks are right, in fact we are shown they are wrong and they used ot be a great people that just became monsters.

Technology is also presented interestingly in this movie, I have seen comparisons with avatar in regards to the message of a dying world but the solution here is different than any other movie right now. Take avatar, the solution to overpopulation in avatar? Do nothing, sit in the jungle, use no technology, and just be a hippy. John Carter (the movie) takes a stand and says, NO, technology got us into this mess it can get us out of it again.

It is also reflected in the tharks character advancement, as a race they reject technology and advancement. But by the end of the film, they are fully embracing technology, they see it as a solution to a problem . . . it is no longer a taboo, they got on those airships because they realize the airships were useful. This mirrors the book very well, technology is presented as a good thing, an amazing thing that can help . . . not as a devil!

Oh and before I end this section of this article, let me talk about everyone calling John Carter a “white messiah”. Essentially the claim is that the tharks needed a white-man to save their society, or to be the savior of the peoples. This is not the case in the slightest with this movie, and people claiming this, I have no idea what movie they watched. The Tharks have a ruthless society and are outright evil, but they were surviving, while the red-men tore each other apart they survived! They didn’t need John Carter to save them, and ultimately they only followed John Carter because . . . to put it bluntly, John Carter needed an army, and killed the leader of their society and took over. John Carter is a warlord of mars, not a white messiah, he needed an army and he took the first one he saw by force. Sure in the process he showed the tharks there was another way, but that was there battle with themselves! It wasn’t John Carters battle and he didn’t concern himself with it.

Now onto the next part

Originality is NOT a synonym for quality!

The critics of these days seem to be under the impression that every movie has to be some original concept artfully done with weird camera angles and some stupid plot-twist.  There is a rejection of the familiar amongst critics and it is very tiresome.

But in this instance, I find familiarity welcome! There are so few science fiction universes that have this sort of setting, with diverse races who interact, and worlds that are extremely well-defined. The few known examples are star wars, and star trek . . . indomitable monopolies on these ideas that continue to retread the same territory again and again.

Maybe, it is a good thing to have something that is “like star wars” or “like avatar” but simply not be it . . . I think I find myself wanting that most in the content industry, I want something like star wars, I want something like avatar . . . But I don’t want avatar, I don’t want star wars, I am sick of them!

Is having an alternative that uses some of the same ideas and concepts a bad thing? Is it wrong that I love these ideas and I would see a million more movies that remind me of star wars or avatar? Am I a bad person for having initially been drawn to the books because of this allure, because I wanted something familiar but not quite the same?

When I first picked up “A Princess of Mars” I fell in love with it, and perhaps that was in part because of how much I loved star wars. But I just needed something, different, but I still loved star wars . . . it was familiar too me, but it was a different world and different characters.

John Carter Fan Commentary by Eric Holland

Critics think that originality is some sort of holy grail, but honestly, originality is over-rated. I am not saying originality isn’t nice, or that John Carter is unoriginal.

These days everyone is trying to be original by doing the exact same thing, involving their characters in unimaginable emotional torture. There is this backlash against happiness and fun in movies. It has gotten to the point in television and movies (and comics especially) where it is painful to enjoy because you know they are going to do everything in their power to make the characters’ lives suck.

John Carter, it is relaxing fresh to see a world where the good guys win, a world where the bad guys are bad guys. A world of princess’ and giants, where a man is free, and being who he is can actually make a difference.

It is cheesy, it is sometimes silly, but by god it is glorious and relaxing. It isn’t a chore to watch John Carter, and unlike so many “original” stories it doesn’t try and cram a half-cooked message down your throat.


  • Good comment! I think you highlighted a lot of the stronger points of the subject. You’re absolutely right saying that the Hollywood mill is always treading the same old overused water and that we need something new. We desperately need a place like Barsoom and we have to thank Stanton that he created it so amazingly fresh. But unfortunately the way he told the story of John Carter was only half as good and many viewers simply didn’t get it emotionally. I think that happened, because Stanton was too keen on exposition and thus he filled our mind instead of opening it.

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