My online pal and commenter mike luuuurves this film, and I have to admit that mostly because of that I really wanted to love it, too. Instead I liked it well enough but not with the same fervor.
I found a lot of the same problems that many of the reviewers had; a fair amount of draggy exposition mixed in with the slam-bang action sequences, and an overall sameness to the general feel of it. Lots of it is fun, there's some gorgeous spectacle, but it's hard to avoid the feeling that you've seen it done elsewhere before.
As this Globe and Mail review pointed out, that isn't really a John Carter problem, it's a Burroughs problem. The stuff that seemed so awesome in 1917; flying machines, ray guns, dying empires on lost planets...by 2013 they've been done to death. We've been there and done that so often that the liveliness just kind of leaches out.
It's not a bad film, though, not at all. It's a good popcorn actioner and both the Boy and I enjoyed it.
The Boy liked the fighting, we both love the Tharks, but I think one of the reasons I enjoy it is Lynn Collins' Dejah Thoris.
And let's face it, why not? Dejah is a fanboy's wet dream. A nubile and gorgeous alien babe dressed in a couple of bits of jewelry and...well, a couple of bits of jewelry
(Here's how ERB describes her costume: "She was as destitute of clothes as the green Martians who accompanied her; indeed, save for her highly wrought ornaments she was entirely naked, nor could any apparel have enhanced the beauty of her perfect and symmetrical figure."
Here's cartoonist Frank Cho's version per the ERB description:
Good luck with your PG rating with THAT one, Disney. Sheesh.)This is pure Slave-Leia-dom; the slavering fanboy inventing his perfect naked dreamgirl.
I'm shocked, shocked.
Getting away from Dejah for a moment her creator ERB was kind of a piece of work, a 20th Century writer with deep roots in the 19th Century, a wanna-be soldier and a vicarious adventurer. After I watched John Carter the first time through I went out and picked up Princess of Mars from our fine Multnomah County Library and tried to read the original story.
I gave up about halfway through.
A big part of the reason is ERB's prose style. It's hopelessly 19th Century, full of the sorts of romantic and heroic conventions that 20th Century wars knocked the stuffing out of. At the time it was written the notion of the hero wearing a "fighting smile" while dueling furiously probably seemed rakish and admirable; with a better understanding of how frightening and stressful fighting for your life really is it seems ludicrous, almost parodic. All the description is florid to a Baroque degree and the way the people interact just seems ridiculous; you can't imagine people, any people, even imaginary people in an invented world, acting like that.
The other is that ERB's values were straight out of his times, and those times are so gone that they might as well be the Paleolithic. His good men are all parfit gentile knights and his good women all chaste and gentile ladies - who are kidnapped again and again and threatened again and again with rape - including our gal Dejah. Not that anybody actually gets raped; it's all good fun and our hero always wins. So the whole notion of making the rape of your heroine a plot device kind of slides by, and that kind of squicks me out; I got the feeling that ERB kinda liked the idea of rape.
He also has a rock-solid certainty that Race is Destiny, and there's no confusing who the White Men are. Even the backstory of the protagonist as a Confederate veteran of the Lost Cause seems kind of skeevy in retrospect; ERB obviously intended it to help establish John Carter as a cavalier, a kind of American aristocrat but the effect is, instead, to loop back to the nasty racism that saturated his timeperiod. You can almost hear the happy darkies crooning spirituals down in the slave shacks in the background.
So the original book is kind of a wash.
But Collin's movie Dejah isn't; she's fiery and smart and tough. And funny. And, of course, a total babe; this isn't real life, fergawrshsakes.
Her costume, while more voluminous than a Burroughs original, is skimpy enough that a genuine fighting princess of Helium would have spent most of her time worrying that one of her opponents was liable to snip off a dangly bit or two.
But, here's the thing I kept thinking about watching the film again.
The film stays fairly close to the ERB canon, from the radium pistols to the Thark jezails to the nefarious Therns and so on and so on. So the assumption is that the other aspects of the original story are in there. We see the Thark egg-incubator in the opening Barsoom sequence; the Tharks hatch from eggs, K? That's important.
Because on Burrough's Mars everyone and everything hatches from eggs.
Martian women, regardless of species, are oviparous.
So why the hell does Dejah have one of these;
Nothing that hatches from eggs has a navel.
(Update 5/15: In the comments section Jack Saint raises a good point; some of the non-mammals of Jasoom DO have navels, specifically, some birds have a sort of small scar from the chorio allantoic duct that connects the yolk sac to the embryo. This at least gives our gal Dejah a shot at having a navel, though (as I discuss in the comments as well) the chance of her sporting anything like Lynn Collins' cute little innie is fairly low. Still - at least the possibility's there. Proof, if we needed it, of the awesomesauce of Nature in all Its Works...)But regardless of the biology of navels, there you have it; the fanboy in me comes out not drooling over naked space babes but niggling over ridiculous petty plot details like who has or hasn't got a bellybutton.
But, damn, Disney...how hard would it have been - how tiny an amount would it have cost amid the ginormous CGI budget - to spackle over Lynn's bellybutton? Nobody but us fanboys would have even noticed it but we'd have nodded knowingly and appreciated the gesture.
Silly? Sure, but then so's making a multimillion dollar picture of a sort of ragtime-era sci-fi version of the Prisoner of Zenda.
Call me nitpicky. But there you go; I can't be other than I am. I'm the sort of person who looks at a gorgeous woman playing an alien princess in a sci-fi action movie and notices Dejah Thoris' navel