Thursday, March 29, 2012

John Carter of Mars OR John Carter Does Mars OR Edgar Rice Burroughs is Rolling in his Grave!

Tarzan, Lord of the Apes, and King of Undying Remakes,
does NOT have
good posture in this illustration.
Warning!  Spoilers, ho!  This blog contains spoilers.  Massive, mind-numbing spoilers.  If you're hankering (you and the ten other people who actually saw the movie) to see John Carter, I'm going to spoil it.  Don't say I didn't warn ya.

When I was a tween, I discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs.  (Trust me, this is much better than discovering Justin Bieber.)  I loved Tarzan of the Apes.  (I luvved Tarzan.  I'll get to luv later in the blog.)  I discovered that Edgar had a big pile-o-rama of action/suspense/romance in the waiting for me to read.  Then I discovered that he had died decades before I was ever born and I was heartbroken.  (Tween, remember?  Lots of melodrama involved.)

I can honestly say Edgar was a guiding influence in becoming a writer.  And don't let anyone get it wrong, Edgar was a bigtime romantic.  Tarzan would clutch Jane to his heaving breast and smooch her severely.  Tarzan might have been raised by apes, but he was all man, baby.  Then there was the adventures in The Land That Time Forgot, which was coolness personified.  (It was an island that TIME frickin' forgot with a hunky hero going all neanderthal on the hot, oh-I-need-help-bad babe.  Dinosaurs and dames in distress.  You cannot go wrong with that formula.)  There was also John Carter cavorting all over Mars and let's not forget that Carson Napier was all over Venus.  Edgar sent adventuresome hunks to the moon and to the middle of earth.  Let's just say these heroes got around.

This does not look like a pirate to me.
This looks like a messed up birdman.
About three years ago, I lamented to my sister that I was sorry I gave away all the Burroughs paperbacks I had collected.  During the seventies Ballantine issued a sh**load of them and I snapped them up.  So my sister, who works in a used book store, generously sent me all the John Carter ones from the seventies.  Thank you, Sis-o-mine.  Eagerly I dived in and they were somewhat cheesier than I recalled.  (But it was Edgar!  Dammit.  Guiding influence in a tender age!)

Interestingly enough I was amazed to see them (Hollywood) making John Carter the movie, or rather, they did A Princess of Mars, which is the first Burroughs book with that character.  But hey, look at all the cool special effects they do now, so wtf?  Someone in Disney said, "It worked with Pirates, let's do John Carter."  I don't know why they called it John Carter instead of A Princess of Mars, but I'm not a Hollywood producer and what do I know?  I also do not know why they thought anyone would recognize John Carter as a primary character from a book that is, guess what, nearly a century old.

Consequently, having been indoctrinated into Burroughs, I forced HIM, the man to whom I'm married, to go see the movie.  We found a 2D one to go to and got a babysitter.  (The 3D ones make me want to barf on the person in the seat in front of me.  Apparently I've got some sort of weird 3D motion sickness thing going on and people in the rows in front of me do not care for it.)  (Have you ever said to the person in the seat in front of you, "Sorry about that popcorn?  Buy you another one?")
John Carter, kicking butts and taking names,
and rescuing the hot martian babe princess...
In the novels, one must understand, John Carter magically keels over in a cave in Arizona, where he's hanging out doing whatnot, discovering gold, and fighting off Apaches, and he pops up on Mars, where he pretty much finds a pretty Martian princess who needs saving, fights off cool dudes, and gets in the know.  John makes friends with four-armed dudes and some other stuff happens to prolong the book.  John has to rescue the Martian Princess a bunch of times because she's basically a magnet for bad guys and kidnappers who want to have their wicked way with her.  Then he pops back to earth, all upset because he lost his true love.  (Somewhere during rescuing the Martian babe they fell in luv.  It's better than love.  They're in luv.  Real luv.  Not love.  Luv is when you go, "Awwwwww.  They're in luvvvvv."  See?)

For a twelve year old, this was hot stuff.  (I wanted to magically go to Mars and have adventures with a hot martian prince.  Really, I did.)
Edgar had a penchant for his heroes to be
tall, black haired, and gray-eyed.  I don't
know about this guy, but he's okay, I guess.
But on to the movie.  First off, the screen writers had to fix that pesky detail of how John got to Mars.  They made the cave a space/time/movie portal and John was in the right place at the right time.  Then he's on Mars, hanging out, jumping really high because the gravity is different there.  Also the Martian babe princess is now a scientist Martian babe princess who also knows how to fight with a sword and wryly counter John's southern wit.  Also the four-armed dudes give John something to make him automatically speak their language, whereas in the book, it takes him a while to learn the lingo.  (This plot device saves on screen time.  A movie that's four months long would be kind of a bummer.)
I think Edgar would be totally on board with this hot babe princess.
Or at least Frank Frazetta would be.
Was the movie bad?  No, not really, really bad.  But there were a couple of things I feel compelled to comment upon.  One was that the actor who played John Carter, Taylor Kitsch, had an interview and said he had groin scars from all the leaping around in the air while wearing one of those special harnesses.  I wish I hadn't heard the interview because every time John Carter leaped into the air, I leaned over to HIM and said, "Groin scars."  (Which probably didn't make HIM like me or the movie any more.)  John jumped around a lot and all I could think of was, "That poor Hollywood bastard and his aching groin."  (I bet HIM wishes I hadn't heard that interview, either.)
I couldn't find a jumping still so here's one with his Martian dog thing.
The actor must be pissed, having to play second fiddle to a special FX.
Second, there's a scene where John has to fight a giant white ape thingymabob.  It's badass and John is chained to a rock.  So, of course, he breaks free.  (Edgar never killed off a hero, as far as I can recall and I think Disney follows this rule faithfully.)  Then he kills the ape thing.  (If this had been the book, John would have celebrated his victory by firmly grasping the hot babe Martian Princess to his heaving breast and laying his burning lips on hers.  But no Frenching because apparently Edgar wasn't into that in the early part of the 20th century.  I don't Disney would approve, either.)  He even kills the ape thing in a pretty icky manner, and explodes out of its body covered with blue blood.  John challenges the evil, four-armed guy and wins by default because that bad guy is really a large, broken-tusked, four-armed pussy.  Then, all covered with blue gooiness, John gives a speech which is remarkably similar to William Wallace's rant in Braveheart.  The four-armed peeps need to hang out with the red-skinned peeps and save their world from evil badness, and he, John, will lead them to a triumphant Hollywood ending.

I mean, I'm all over the hero going to save the hot babe princess and also the world, and setting everything up for a nice sequel (good luck with that considering the huge inequity in how much the move made versus how much it cost) and all, but dang, did they have to steal a scene from Braveheart?  Come on!  Edgar would not approve.  Mel Gibson should be ranting about it.
"I luv you."  "No, I luv you more."  "No, I luv you."  "Oh, shut up."
"Clutch me to your heaving breast already!"
Finally, there's this scene where the hot babe Martian Princess and John confess their undying luv.  (Told ya.  It's luv, not love.)  I started to giggle in the middle of the scene and HIM shushed me.  The poor actress who got to play the hot babe Martian Princess got all the crappy lines.  And John Carter, well, he's got groin scars.

In conclusion the movie goes on to explain how John Carter went back to earth and was pissed about it and how his nephew is really Edgar, who didn't really write the book but just published John's diaries about his adventures on Mars or Barsoom, as the Barsoomians call Mars.  (Run on sentence alert!  I should have added a few more "ands".)

I went and downloaded all the Tarzan books on kindle.  I need someone to clutch me to his heaving breast and plant a scorching hot smoochie on me.  Where's HIM when I need him?


C R Ward said...

Another big time Edgar Rice Burrough fan here *waves*

Yeah, I have to say I was a little disappointed in the movie. I expected it to be more visually stunning, especially when they started comparing it to Avatar. And I didn't like the way they played with the story either.

And I'm a bigger fan of ERB than you are because I still have all my books, including the John Carter, Tarzan, and Pellucidar books. :-)

Carwoo said...

I wish I had kept them. Hey, but did ya read Edgar's westerns, because I even did that. Love to see The Land that Time Forgot Remade because that other one sucked like a Hoover. (Imagine Mystery-Science 3000 doing it as a first round choice.)

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