You’d be hard pressed to find a person on this earth who is not familiar with the masterpiece serial fiction “Tarzan” by Edgar Rice Burroughs, but it’s hardly the only book he wrote.
Fortunately, the “Barsoom” series, his take on Martian adventures, will be finally getting some recognition from today’s broader audiences.
Pixar has picked up the film, which is now entitled “John Carter of Mars,” though since its introduction to Hollywood as a potential project years ago, it’s also been named “Princess of Mars,” and so is likely going to cover the events of the first novel (which shares that name).
It all looks very cool, but I think they’ve made some poor casting choices, and it’s a bit disappointing.
The news is that Taylor Kitsch (Gambit from the Wolverine movie) is going to play John Carter, which is unfortunate because Carter was never intended to be a meathead.
In the novels he’s a scrawny everyman. He’s a trained soldier, but he’s not supposed to be especially buff or handsome. He only becomes strong on Mars because of the decreased gravity.
The choice of Lynn Collins for the princess however is only less than perfect because she’s not naturally orange (although this is a detail they are likely to change anyway).
Members of the audience who have not read the books will likely have a completely different problem with the story, and that’s the realism. Today’s audience usually doesn’t hold with serious stories which try to portray proven wrong hypotheses.
Unlike “Tarzan,” the Barsoom adventures contain some heavy fantastic elements, but for the most part are actually pretty good at representing Mars as it was believed to be at the time.
Of course, that time was right after Percival Lowell’s famous translation error, which led most of the English speaking world to believe that there was astronomical evidence for intelligent life on Mars.
In the first book, John Carter, an American Civil War veteran turned prospector, is set upon by natives in the wilderness of the American West. Left for dead in the brush, John is transported (this is the fantastic element) to Mars Dorothy-style.
There he meets the warring Martians, who are vying for control over the scarce resources of the dying planet.
One of the factions is the city of Helium, the princess of which Carter falls in love with instantly, and whose frequent need for rescuing is the driving force in much of Carter’s story.
It’s Pixar, so we can be pretty sure that it’s going to look good, and the acting can be sort-of bad, and the movie will still work, so my only real fear with this production is the possibility that the ‘dying planet’ setting is turned into a modern political statement about the environment, which wouldn’t make sense for a narrative set in the late 1800’s.