This project had floated through development hell for at least a decade before they finally got it to the screen. It promptly died a quick death, mostly due to having almost no advertisement or marketing connected to it, at all. So was it so terrible that it should have been left in a vault?
No. it gets off to a slow start, and that is the main issue with the movie that I saw. The acting is adequate, but not awful, considering the material it was based on. The special effects are good. The story adapts the events of A Princess of Mars, (and I suspect bits from other books, but I haven’t read them in a while), but they were smart to not stick too tightly to the book. I don’t think it would have held up well, had think.
The basic story: a group of super creatures/gods/whatever have chosen a vicious warlord to rule Mars (or Barsoom, to the natives) and they want to fashion a marriage with Dejah Thoris, the princess of Helium. through their technology, John Carter — a Virginia cavalryman who lost his family in the Civil War — is transported to the Red Planet, and through a series of mishaps involving his enhanced strength due to the low gravity of Barsoom, impresses the various races of the world and comes to be a champion for Helium. Of course, he gets the girl…sort of.
If you get past the first 30 minutes, you’ll have a good time. It’s definitely a rental, could be a DVD buy if you enjoy it. Style: 5 out of 5 — it looks good, but it’s a PG version, so don’t get your hopes of for Frazzetta-style boobage. Substance 3 out of 5: the books were enjoyable fluff, and the movie doesn’t try to stray too far from the original material.
Now for the non-movie stuff: Disney apparently did their best to torpedo a movie that cost them $220 million or so…why? It’s no worse than any other big-spectacle sci-fi blockbuster, and is a damned sight better than the execrable The Phantom Menace or the overblown, simplistic, and frankly awful Avatar (I don’t give a crap how pretty it was.) My guess is that once the total for the project hit a certain point, in the weak economic condition, Disney chose to insure themselves against a bad showing, and between that and using the movie as a tax writeoff, made more money than if the film had been a success.