Go See a Land War on Mars!

by Hans A. von Spakovsky

I know there is an unwritten rule on the Corner about not talking about Star Trek or similar science-fiction dramas, and we just ended a week in which the most important case in sixty years was argued before the Supreme Court, so naturally I want to add one (maybe) last comment to the colloquy on John Carter of Mars between Michael Auslin and Mark Steyn.

Guys, you are both wrong, as are all of the critics. This was a fun movie and a very faithful recreation of the great adventure book by Edgar Rice Burroughs. My biggest fear when I went into the movie theater was that they would have ruined the story by straying too much from the book.

I grew up reading the whole Burroughs series about John Carter, the former Southern cavalry officer who is mysteriously transported to Barsoom (Mars to the unenlightened). Carter swash buckles his way across Barsoom, falling in love with, rescuing (naturally), and eventually marrying the beautiful Dejah Thoris, the Princess of Helium, every red-blooded American boy’s fantasy princess. She is a member of the humanoid red race of Mars.

#more#Burroughs’s Barsoom series is the science-fiction version of the kinds of tales written by Rafael Sabatini, who wrote The Sea Hawk and Captain Blood, some of the best adventure novels ever written for the young and the male. It helped inspire the writings of many other famous science fiction writers, from Robert Heinlein to Ray Bradbury. And it was Burroughs who created the great character Tarzan, too.

John Carter of Mars, which covers the first book in the series, The Princess of Mars, could not have been made in the 1930s when Hollywood first started making science-fiction serials. The special effects back then could never have captured the creativity of Burroughs’s tale, including the various races that exist on Barsoom such as the Tharks, who are green-skinned, six-limbed aliens. Hollywood could never have captured the beautiful airships that are flown over the planet by the red race or Carter’s great agility and strength because of the lower gravity of Barsoom. Sure, the book was written in 1912, so the battle scenes (with guns and swords) on the airships are a combination of Star Wars meets Errol Flynn on the deck of his pirate ship in Captain Blood. So what? That just makes them more fun.

I actually convinced my 16-year-old son to go see the movie with me while everyone else was crammed into the theater to see The Hunger Games. He ran into a girl he knows from school in the lobby whose remark when she found out which movie he was going to go see was, “how lame.” But my son liked the movie. What better recommendation is there for a movie then the fact that a teenage girl panned it while the two males in my family thought it was great?

If you like science fiction, historical adventure, and swashbuckling, go see it before it disappears from the theaters because of all the deluded critics (who probably never even read the books) panning it. Ignore all those other depressing movies about serious subjects that abound in the movie theaters. For pure escapism and fun, don’t miss John Carter of Mars. In fact, the most disappointing thing about the financial failure of the movie is that it guarantees they won’t make the next book in the series, The Gods of Mars, into a movie. So we will never see John Carter’s return to Barsoom on the screen.

The Corner

The one and only.