Review: John Carter of … Disney?

This weekend I spent time with my lovable Mormon Theologist friend Carl who blogs over at I Feel Like Schrodinger’s Cat. He made certain that I spent time watching the mother of all Space movies, based on the books that spawned Star Wars, and inspired Carl Sagan. This series is starts with “The Princess of Mars” that Disney renamed in movie form as “John Carter.”

My review will be vastly different than Carl’s as I have never read the books before in my life. That being said they will also be similar to Carl’s as we share a love of many fantastical things including Doctor Who, Star Wars, (some) Star Trek, Firefly, and pretty much anything Nerdy. In fact we will often (with our other nerdy friends and roommates long-past) get together to spend an entire night playing nerdy games, eating pizza and watching something science-fictiony. We call them “Man Nights.”

I had understood the basic premise that this was a movie about a guy (John Carter) who lived in the post-Civil War American West who was transported to Mars and had adventures. Really that was all I needed to know to get my interest piqued. Add in some sword-fighting, romance, and cool airships and I’m SO there.

To that extent, Disney/Pixar performed well. I could understand nearly everything that was going on (Unlike Tinker,Tailor, Soldier, Spy) and the mythos that the story created made sense. Cool Shiny Blue Medallion = science tech indistinguishable from magic, lower gravity = higher jumps and more strength, and bad guys = bad guys, you know the stuff you need to build a world and its set of rules.

Where the movie failed, in my view, was the casting. They tried very hard to get the races of Martian Humans (Red Men) to look similar and then distinguished them by the colors they wore, a literal Red vs. Blue scenario. This was confusing to me at one point during a rescue scene where it took me about 3 minutes to realize that the guy rescuing John Carter was Princess’s Friend and not the Evil Dude. Disney certainly got it right when they characterized evil as malificent all those years ago and yet in this film, two polar opposite characters were cut from the same mold (physically) This could have been modified while simultaneously adding a bit of racial integration into the film that was entirely white focused. (well okay, White & Green)

Other than that I thought it was a solid movie that deserved a stronger marketing push from Disney and a better title. If you have a moment this week(end) go see John Carter, it won’t let you down.