Edgar Rice Burroughs receives more than a writing credit for the film adaptation of his story A Princess of Mars. He also appears as a character that gets the sole right to read the personal diary of his uncle John Carter (Taylor Kitsch). John is an adventurous sort, always searching for something that seems to elude him. In the pages of his journal, Edgar (Daryl Sabara) finally discovers what that is.
The story within the story takes place in the late 1800s when John, a Civil War veteran, picks up a glowing medallion and finds himself transported to Mars. Known by the locals as Barsoom, the planet, like Earth, is plagued by war. Sab Than (Dominic West) and his army of Red Soldiers are bent on crushing the inhabitants of Helium. In an effort to save his people, Tardos Mors (Ciarán Hinds) agrees to marry his daughter Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) to the invading General.
Dejah Thoris thinks differently.
Luckily for her, the scrappy John Carter mysteriously arrives on the Red Planet just when she needs him. (And what swashbuckler can avoid a beautiful damsel in distress.)
What ensues is military mayhem between characters that could be out of a Star Wars movie or the animation Up (the slobbering dog—not the Boy Scout.) In the course of fighting, appendages are sliced off, dead bodies pile up and a man cuts his way through a monstrous attacker to emerge blue and bloody on the other side. The amount of violence is unfortunate since profanities are few and sexual content is confined mostly to skimpy costumes.
Based on a novel that marks its centennial anniversary this year (2012), the film is reminiscent of the pulp fiction of that bygone era, combining space adventures and Westerns, but with better weaponry than Cowboys and Aliens offered. Like the humans in Avatar, John becomes a savior figure for a race that can’t save themselves. While there is nothing new there, the inclusion of a little romance, a bit of comedy and some unlikely cooperation give this script a spur over similar movies in this genre. For older teen and adult sci-fi fans that can handle the interplanetary warfare, lassoing a ticket for John Carter might just be worth it.