Monday, March 12, 2012
Mars Calls at your Local Cinema
I entered the cinema with hope, in spite of the fact that I had been fearful for weeks. I discovered John Carter of Mars as an eighteen-year-old college freshman and had loved it, faithfully scooping up every Michael Whelan cover-illustrated volume and gobbling their contents. The setting of the D&D campaign I regularly played in was a direct descendant from the Dray Prescott books which was a direct descendent from John Carter of Mars. All those years of being a fan and seeing the great body of fantasy illustrations produced for the series went together with the stories to form my imagination of Mars. The past months of trailers, however, caused me concern. While I was happy with the Tharks, the other images I was seeing didn't match up with my mental images -- in the cases of the white apes and architecture, a little, in the cases of John, Dejah, and the airships, a lot.
In spite of these differences and how they magnified my fears of what often happens when someone tries to make a show out of books you love, Disney's John Carter of Mars comes out a winner for me. The two main actors pulled off the characters on the screen in spite of the fact that they didn't match my images, and they were accompanied by an excellent supporting cast. Together with the vistas and the action, they sweep you along. My non-sci-fi fan wife, who'd never heard of John Carter, was swept right along with her trepidatious husband. At this point, my biggest complaint is the way Thern technology looked -- the blue crystalline energy structures, in particular. It's a look that is hard to related to. Otherwise, the film won me over as one, very good, vision of Barsoom. The story is mostly based on Princess of Mars, but works in some elements from later in the story as well. I'll be very curious to see if this give rise to any further filming of John Carter stories.
A final note: while the 3D wasn't the most impressive use of the technology, I saw it in IMAX 3D and I enjoyed it in that format.