Based on Edgar Rice Burroughs 1917 novel “A Princess of Mars“, Disney’s “John Carter” is one of my favorite movies. This is a classic sci-fi tale with lots of action, beautiful imagery, wonderfully original characters and best of all a magical love story.
This film also represents the best and worst of the American culture; the best being the original story and the film itself, the worst being that the film was seen as a box office failure due to the fact that the masses of sheep in this country would rather stuff popcorn down into their oversized bellies while gorging themselves on brain-numbing, useless entertainment the likes of “21 Jump Street” & “The Twilight Saga” (among other abominable monstrosities). My point being, the fact that my culture failed to embrace this magnificent production shames me to no end. I digress…
John Carter is a 2012 American science fiction adventure film directed by Andrew Stanton and produced by Walt Disney Pictures. It is based on “A Princess of Mars“, the first book in the “Barsoom” series of novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The motion picture marks the centennial of the character’s first appearance. The film chronicles the first interplanetary adventure of John Carter, portrayed by actor Taylor Kitsch. The ensemble cast also features Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Mark Strong, Ciarán Hinds, Thomas Haden Church, Dominic West, James Purefoy, and Willem Dafoe. Filming began in November 2009 with principal photography underway in January 2010, wrapping seven months later in July 2010.
After the sudden death of John Carter (Kitsch), a former American Civil War Confederate Army captain, Carter’s nephew, Edgar Rice Burroughs (Sabara), attends the funeral. As per Carter’s instructions, the body is put in a tomb that can be unlocked only from the inside. His attorney hands over Carter’s personal journal for Burroughs to read, in the hope of finding clues explaining Carter’s cause of death. Meanwhile, the mysterious Therns are secretly keeping watch on Burroughs’ goal.
The anecdote recounts back to the Arizona Territory, where Union Colonel Powell (Cranston) arrests Carter. Powell, knowing about Carter’s military background, seeks his help in fighting the Apache. Carter escapes his holding cell, but is pursued by Powell and his cavalry. After a run-in with a band of Apaches, Carter and a wounded Powell are chased until they take to hiding in a cave that turns out to be the object of Carter’s earlier searching, the “Spider Cave of Gold“. A Thern appears in the cave at that moment; Carter kills him but accidentally activates the Thern’s powerful medallion, and is unwittingly transported to a ruined and dying planet, Barsoom (Mars). Because of his different bone density and the planet’s low gravity, Carter is able to jump high and perform feats of incredible strength. He is captured by the Green Martian clan, the Tharks and their Jeddak (chieftan) Tars Tarkas (Dafoe). Tars instructs Sola (Morton) to watch over Carter which results in her feeding him a liquid that enables him to understand the Martian language.
Elsewhere on Barsoom, the Red Martian city of Helium led by Tardos Mors (Hinds) and the mobile scavenger city of Zodanga led by Sab Than (West) have been at war for a thousand years. Sab Than is armed with a special weapon obtained from Matai Shang (Strong), the leader of the Therns. He proposes cease-fire and an end to the war by marrying the Princess of Helium Dejah Thoris (Collins). Disguised as a soldier, the Princess escapes in a Helium ship.
When Tarkus wants John Carter to show off his jumping abilities, a Thark states the sightings of one ship from Helium and one ship from Zodanga scattering the Tharks to their hiding place. John Carter takes action and saves Dejah from falling. He does manage to kill some Zodanga soldiers and have a brief fight with Sab Than. Following the fight, which leads to Sab Than’s ship retreating, John Carter is hailed as Dotar Sojat (which roughly translates to “My Right Arms”) by Tars Tarkas due to his strength and skill. Tarkus even has Dejah given to him as part of the Thark spoils.
Sometime after that, Carter, accompanied by Dejah, tries to find a way to get back to earth, and stumbles upon a temple ruin sacred to the Tharks where Sola encounters them and tries to stop them from entering, but fails. After discovering an inscription stating a way back to Earth in the sacred river of Iss, Carter, Dejah and Sola are caught by Sokoja (Walker) and Tals Hajus (Haden Church). The three of them are sentenced to death due to the Thark code, but they are helped to escape by Tars Tarkas, who reveals to Carter that Sola is his daughter. When Tals and Sokoja find the prisoners gone, Tals states that Tarkus has betrayed them.
Carter, Dejah, Sola, and Woola (a Martian Calot – which is somewhat like a mixture of a lizard and a dog) embark on a quest to get to the end of a sacred river to find a way for Carter to get back home. They obtain information about the “ninth ray”, a means of utilizing infinite energy and also the key to understanding how the medallion works. But they are later attacked by the Green Martian Clan of Warhoon, which were manipulated by Matai Shang to pursue them. After the attack, which is repelled by Helium forces, Carter is injured while Sola is able to escape. Sab Than is also in the company of Tardos Mors as he mentions that Sab came alone and stated that he organized the rescue party. The demoralized Dejah grudgingly agrees to marry Sab Than as Carter is taken to Zodanga to be healed.
When Carter awakens, he is guided to Dejah’s room. After the servant girls leave, Dejah gives Carter his medallion and tells him to go back to Earth. As Dejah leaves with Sab Than, Carter is captured by Shang in the form of a servant girl. In different Zodangan forms, Shang explains to Carter the purpose of Therns and how they manipulate the civilizations of different planets. Carter is able to make an escape thanks to Woola as he and Sola go back to the Tharks requesting their help. There, they discover Tarkas has been overthrown by Tal Hajus. Tarkas, Carter, and Sola are put on trial in a colosseum battle with two enormous vicious creatures, the four-armed Great White-Apes. After defeating them and easily killing Hajus, Carter becomes the leader of the Tharks.
The Thark army charges on Helium and…
- Taylor Kitsch as John Carter
- Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris
- Samantha Morton as Sola
- Willem Dafoe as Tars Tarkas
- Thomas Haden Church as Tal Hajus
- Mark Strong as Matai Shang
- Ciarán Hinds as Tardos Mors
- Dominic West as Sab Than
- James Purefoy as Kantos Kan
- Bryan Cranston as Colonel Powell
- Polly Walker as Sarkoja
- Daryl Sabara as Edgar Rice Burroughs
- Nicholas Woodeson as Dalton
- Don Stark as Dix
- Jon Favreau as Thark Bookie
- Art Malik as Zodangan General