It seems that the phrase “Everything old is new again” is true. Fashions come back in style, foods become popular again and again, and good stories come back as movies. You know the stories Edgar Rice Burroughs is most noted for, his Tarzan series. There is another series of novels written at the same time called the Barsoom series. The first book in the series is called “Princess of Mars,” and now has been released by Disney under the title “John Carter.”
The film opens with the title character, John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), sending a telegram to his nephew, Ned, asking him to come to his home in New York. Ned’s real name is Edgar Rice Burroughs.
When Burroughs arrives, he is greeted with the sad news that his uncle has died. After Carter’s lawyer has finished reading the will, he hands him Carter’s personal journal. It has been saved for only Burroughs to read.
Burroughs finds an incredible tale inside. It seems that his uncle was a confederate soldier, and the government seems to think he still owes some service to his country. He is captured to be put into military service helping settlers in the west, but he feels he has paid the price of service since his family was killed.
On one escape attempt, Carter takes a colonel’s horse and rides off. He is tracked down, but there is a confrontation with a group of Indians and Carter and Colonel Powell (Bryan Cranston) flee to a cave. The Indians won’t follow them into the cave and Carter goes to look for another exit. Instead he finds himself waking up in the middle of another desert.
Carter finds that he cannot walk right in this new place. When he meets Tars Tarkus (Willem Dafoe), he realizes there is a new language he must learn. Carter is captured and taken to the nearby village. Carter comes to the realization that he has some extreme abilities now and he uses them to try to escape.
After learning to communicate, Carter finds out there are two other groups on the planet currently engaged in a war. He uses his abilities to save Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) and realizes she is in need of more help. He also learns he is not on earth.
Disney called on the talent of Andrew Stanton to direct this film, the same man who produced “Up” and directed “Finding Nemo.” Stanton knows how to tell a story, and that is what this film needed. All the pieces fit well together and also include many references to the source material of Burroughs. Some have said that the trailers do not make them want to see the movie. Not seeing this film would be a mistake since it has so much more to offer than any trailer could ever show in 30 or 60 seconds.
This film does have a war going on, so there is a lot of violence which does become intense. Scenes in an arena are fairly graphic. There is also a bit of language though mostly at the beginning of the film. There is a lot of blood in this film, too, but not much of it is red.
This film is epic, and it does run long (2 hours 12 minutes), but it does not feel long. Stanton did a wonderful job of presenting the story in an updated way. This is science fiction that could become very popular. It may even bring about a renewed interest in the Barsoom series and could be the first blockbuster of the year. It would seem that a sequel may very well be coming out in the near future. After all, Burroughs did write more books featuring John Carter.
Shawn O'Neill is the Family Man Movie Reviewer on BYU Radio. His reviews can be heard on BYURadio.org and on SiriusXM Channel 143.