Tag Archives: John Carter

Movies: John Carter

I saw John Carter yesterday, and in short, I really enjoyed the movie. The movie, based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars (1912), balances action and world building better than most sci-fi/fantasy movies. With its sweeping vistas of Mars, this is one of those movies that must be seen on the big screen. It will lose a lot if viewed on even a large TV.

The best part of the movie, however, was the characters. John Carter is one of the rare movies in which the heroes are more interesting than the villains (this is a topic that deserves its own post). The title character is a haunted veteran of the Civil War who goes West seeking gold, and who has little use for other people or their causes. He fought for a cause, and in doing so, he lost everything. As the movie opens, it is clear he does not want to make that mistake again. Dejah Thoris, the Princess of the book’s title, is a scholar and warrior who flees her besieged city to escape a political marriage with an enemy ruler. Very quickly their paths cross, and it is their crossed purposes – his desire to get back to his gold in the Arizona Hills, and hers to find a way to save her city – that provides most the conflict and drama of the story.

As for the film’s villains, they could be best described as personifications of greed, violence, and entropy. In a way, they are the perfect 21st-Century villains. They are shadowy, faceless parasites, slowly sucking the life out of Mars, not unlike the evils Earth faces today: Climate change, terrorism, and the financial meltdown (with its arcane credit-default swaps and “securitization” of sub-prime mortgages). John Carter smartly, I think, leaves the villains as forces of nature (like the shark in Jaws), and focuses on the heroes, and how they face challenges that are bigger than any one person. This is a refreshing change from the revenge-motivated, I-can-kill-everything hero and the all-too-interesting villain so often found in recent action movies.

See John Carter in the theater. It is well worth the time and money.

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The studio released several trailers and clips for the movie. Below is my favorite. It was the first trailer released, and, ironically, I think it captures the film best. Especially nice is the use of Peter Gabriel’s cover of “My Body is a Cage.” If you are unfamiliar with the story, I won’t say any more – I don’t want to spoil anything. Just, watch (or watch again) this trailer after you’ve seen the movie. I think you’ll see what I mean.

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John Carter and Literary Archeology

Penguin Classic Ed.

UPDATE: I wrote this post before the movie John Carter came out. In retrospect, it has more meaning now since many movie-goers complained that John Carter was just a re-hash of other sci-fi movies – especially Avitar. It a way, it’s the other way around.

I love to practice “literary archeology.” That is, I love to dig down to find out who inspired and influenced the writers I like. For example, one of my favorite writers is H. P. Lovecraft. A friend of mine introduced me to Lovecraft’s storis when I was a teenager and I’ve been hooked ever since (I’ll save the full story of my introduction to Lovecraft for a separate post). As I got older, I started to explore the authors that Lovecraft grew up reading and those that influenced him: Edgar A. Poe, Lord Dunsany, Arthur Machen, and Algernon Blackwood. By doing this, I’ve discovered some wonderful stories, and, in the case of Poe, I’ve read an author with fresh eyes.

Recently, I’ve started reading Edgar Rice Burroughs’ planetary romance A Princess of Mars (which incidentally was the last book I bought from Borders). I read that it was a model for Lovecraft’s The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, as well as countless other science fiction/fantasy stories, so I put it on my “to read” list.

I’ve only read the first couple chapters, but from what I’ve read, it seems that Princess was also very influential on the work of Robert E. Howard, in particular his Conan stories. Both have a “barbarian” warrior coming into contact with an ancient and dying civilization, which itself is built on the ruins of an even more ancient civilization. It’s wonderful to find these “hidden” gems.

Have you read the works that have influenced your favorite author? Did you like them? Did reading them add to your appreciation of your favorite writer?

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