Jessica Day George

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Where's My Tars Tarkas Action Figure? Or: Why You Should See JOHN CARTER

So JOHN CARTER came out this last weekend, and apparently is not doing well at the box office. This saddens me. I love movies. You all know I love movies. I post lists of favorite movies on this very blog! I used to review movies on a website back in the early days of the interwebs. Heck, I'm even IN a movie. (No, seriously! I was an extra in the airport scenes of THE RM. Check it out!) And more importantly, I loved THIS movie, and hearing people bash it is making me le sad.

You can imagine my excitement at hearing about JOHN CARTER. It's based on A PRINCESS OF MARS, the first book in the Barsoom series by Edgard Rice Burroughs, who also wrote TARZAN. I have never read the Barsoom books, but c'mon, these books were written over a hundred years ago, about a Civil War veteran fighting giant aliens on Mars! What's not to love? Also, it was directed by Andrew Stanton (No, not the Andrew Stanton I went to high school with, the director of FINDING NEMO and WALL-E). The movie had a huge budget, a great cast, and every clip and trailer looked like enormous fun. In fact, the first trailer introduced me to the song "My Body Is A Cage" by Peter Gabriel, which I loved so much I bought the single.

My sister, who knows of my love for movies and my excitement for this one in particular, offered to babysit for us, despite the newness and screaminess of Baby Roo, and so Mike and I were able to go on Saturday. And see what was one of the Best. Movies. I've. Seen. In. Forever.

It was fun. It was funny. It was exciting. It was romantic. It was dramatic. It was, in short, everything you might want in a movie. I have no idea how long it was, but when it was over, I wanted to stay in my seat, clapping my hands and yelling, "Again! Again!" like a Teletubby.

There were no inappropriately sexual jokes. There was no scatological humor. The dialogue wasn't embarrassingly cheesy (a failing of many sci fi movies). The special effects were amazing, I never once saw something and thought, Green screen! In fact, both my husband and I admitted to having the sudden realization that the Tharks WEREN'T real . . . Tharks are ten feet tall, have four arms and tusks, and we fully believed in them. The acting was excellent, too, both voice and physical.

In fact, the acting was stellar. Look at the cast!

Willem Defoe. Samantha Morton. Thomas Haden Church. Dominic West. Mark Strong. James Purefoy. Ciaran Hinds. Taylor Kitsch is great as John Carter, and I loved Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris, Princess of Mars. LOVED her!

First off, she's a scientist and a fighter, not your typical damsel in distress. She also has a very nice body. Yeah, okay, that sounded weird. But I have a pet peeve with movies, especially lately. I have a little problem with people asking me to believe that Angelina Jolie, who looks frighteningly gaunt lately, can jump off a moving train and not snap like a brittle twig. Watching SALT I was cringing every time she did a stunt or got in a fight, she looked sickly and fragile. Lynn Collins has a shapely, healthy figure. She looked good in a bikini, but she also looked like she could swing that sword without falling over, and she totally did. She was tough without being masculine, intelligent without being portrayed as a nerd with no social skills. She was a REAL WOMAN.

Also, I totally want an eight-legged Martian dog. I just do, okay? Disney is really missing out on some marketing opportunities. If there were John Carter action figures, I would buy them all. And a plush Wolla. (I think that was the dog's name.) And some Dejah Thoris paper dolls. Where are my Happy Meal toys? I have a light up Jake Sully from AVATAR, and his six-legged blue horse. Where's my John Carter with glowing medallion, huh? HUH?

And here's the thing about this movie tanking, which Laini Taylor brought my attention to last week. She's started the hashtag #JohnCarterParty on Twitter, and has been encouraging people to see it. Not because she's a huge Barsoom fan, either, but because of what it represents. This is an intelligent, fun, big budget science fiction movie. If you want to see more movies like this, you need to show your support. More good sci fi and fantasy books can be adapted into good movies if Hollywood sees a profit. More good sci fi and fantasy movies can be made, period. Sure, there are some standouts in recent years like AVATAR or the new STAR TREK, but for every AVATAR, there's at least five MISSION TO MARS. (About about fifteen Adam Sandler movies. *shudder*)

If you need more convincing, allow me to sum it all up in this handy list:

Why You Should See JOHN CARTER:

1. Great cast, great acting.
2. A good story.
3. Great effects.
4. Excellent female role models. (Not just Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris, but also Samantha Morton as Sola the Thark maiden.)
5. Suitable for (nearly) the whole family, the violence was more science fictiony than gory/shocking, there was no sex, profanity, or poo!
6. (And most importantly) It will encourage Hollywood to make more fun sci fi/fantasy adventure movies!


Julie Daines said...

I don't know. I think you should tell us how you REALLY feel...

My cousin worked as a make-up artist on that movie. And I read the book about a billion years ago. That's pretty much all I've got.

Anonymous said...

Well, I think we'll take the family to see it this weekend, then. Very convincing review.

Small nit: A Princess of Mars was published in 1917, though the stories were published as early as 1912. So *nearly* 100 years ago. Having just read the book, it's interesting to see the technology Burroughs invents. He foresees computers and robotics working together in food preparation, in one throw-away scene, for example...

Meredith said...

But I'm saving all of my Movies in Theaters money for The Hunger Games! Curse my budget!

Beth said...

I went to see it, and I agree with you. It's great. I'll probably go back and take my kids (I went with my brother to the IMAX).

Lauren said...

I read all the Tarzan books, and the Martian chronicles, probably shortly after they were published. :)

The Tarzan movies (ALL of them) were totally cheezy, but you have to take into account the limits of 17th century animation. I think I'll go see this one. I guess it's about time to make my annual movie-trip...

You've been tagged. Go to my blog ( to find the details for the 7-7-7 challenge!