Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Princess of Mars v. John Carter of Mars. Which is better?

Princess of Mars is the first book out of the book series by Edgar Rice Burroughs titled John Carter of Mars. Confession time: I first watched the movie a few years ago with BAE, but the only thing I remembered about the movie was Tim Riggins, and green aliens. I already written a review of the book, here (enter link here). So if you haven't already, click on the link and read my hot takes.

BAE brought me the Blue Ray of John Carter of Mars. I didn't remember that Disney made the film. Interesting. Oh, It was only 4 dollars, which, I think, says a lot for how well the movie fared since it's released. However, the movie is still wrapped because BAE and I caught the movie on cable when we were down at the beach for the start of our spring break! Lucky us!

Side note: How do people with cable not eat themselves to death? The thing about just having Netflix (no advertisements), and Hulu (minimal advertisement) is that there is no bombardment of the same ads over and over telling the viewer to get Sonic because if they don't, they will be the saddest human being in the entire world. I had an urge for Sonic like no other after watching this movie.

Alright the movie John Carter has the same gist as the book. John Carter is transported to Mars where he is picked up by green men, know as Tarks. He is captured and taken back to the horde of green men. He meets a red woman by the name of Dejah Thoris, and the pair, along with Sola, a green woman, get into many adventures. However, that is where the movie and the book similarities end.

First off, John Carter in the movie is very different from the book. John Carter in the book is a "Gary Stu." He is attractive, honorable, smart, reliable and everyone freaking loves him. If they don't love him, well, they're dead within the next few chapters. John Carter in the movie is a royal fuckup. They keep his confederate soldier background and his desire to find gold, but he is also a drunk who is running away from his problems. John Carter in the book does not have a family, whereas in the movie he leaves his family to fight in the war, and comes home to the cabin burned to the ground with his family inside.

So, John Carter has demons in the movie. He also is commissioned to be a captain in the United States Army, and there are scenes where he escapes from the other soldiers only to be thrown in jail. He is snarky, rude and beholden to no one. He's shunned honor because of his family dying... I guess. Maybe also has something to do with the fact that his side lost the Civil War.

This leads me to the second big difference between the book and the movie. John Carter in the book is an honorable dude (to the point where John Carter can do no wrong) and throughout his adventures, seems to get out of every situation without sacrificing his honor. John Carter in the movie? This motherfucker cannot wait to get home. He gets to Mars, looks around, concludes a big "NOPE!" and tries throughout the movie to get home. He pulls Dejah and Sola into his plan to get home as well, which leads them onto separate adventures from the book.

The mention of Dejah Thoris leads me to the third big difference between the book and the movie. So in the book, Dejah is a thirst trap. When John lays eyes on her for the first time, she is literally naked, covered in metal and jewels. She is a Princess and is set to marry the Zodanga prince but for the most part, relies on both Sola and John Carter to ensure her safety. She kind of  sucks in the book.

In the movie, she is smart and though she still has to marry the prince of Zodanga to ensure the peace of Helium and Zoganda, she doesn't rely on anyone else to find a way out of it. Along with her education, she is a badass and fights alongside John Carter for most of the movie. Though there is initial attraction between them, Dejah finally helps him to get home, despite her desire for John to remain and fight for Helium, teaching his fighting and jumping skills to the other red men.

So the plot of the movie is much more complex than the book. John Carter in the books stumbles into a cave where it takes him to Mars. He navigates the culture of the Tharks, dazzling them with his jumping and fighting abilities and is all in when he meets Dejah Thoris. John Carter saving Dejah is the whole plot of the book with each chapter a separate mini adventure. The movie attempts to tie John Carter's adventures and take the focus off the Damsel in Distress by introducing the Therns. Bald men dressed in blue robes who have an amulet that transports them between planets. The Therns also introduced this blue lightening technology, the 9th ray to the Zodanga, Helium's enemy to destroy them. Dejah Thoris has to marry the Prince of Zodanga, but she is desperate to find a way out of it.

Enter John Carter. John Carter of the movies stumbles into the cave, gets attacked by this bald person, and then is transported to Mars. He is captured by the Tharks and meets Dejah after she escapes from the Prince to also be captured by the Tharks. The movie focuses on John desperate to get home with the antagonists as the Therns and their adventures trying to get there.

Finally, the ending of the movie. In Princess of Mars, John lives on Barsoom for 5 years with Dejah and they have a child together. However, Barsoom falls into crisis when the tower with the rays stop working when the final person running the tower dies. John remembers an encounter with the guy, and goes off to save Barsoom. However, as he gets there, he tells the sounds to the guard and falls unconscious. He wakes up on Earth again unsure if Barsoom survived.

In John Carter, John defeats the Therns but is unable to capture them. Dejah, free from her engagement, agrees to marry John. On their wedding night, John throws away the amulet he acquires from his fight with the Therns and begins walking back to Dejah when a Thern pops out, puts an amulet on John and takes him back to Earth.

So the verdict? Which is better, John Carter or Princess of Mars?

The movie is better.

Is it a ridiculous movie? Absolutely. Is it the greatest movie ever? No. Will I love Tim Riggins forever? Yes.

What skewed my decision was how they treated Dejah Thoris, and the attempt to weave the story together by using Therns. Dejah was a character in the movie and not a means to an end. They even attempted to give John a more flawed character instead of the superhero in the books. The Therns were an interesting take on the plot. I'm not sure if I liked them but it was a story telling tactic that got the movie moving.

Also, no mention of Apache Indians as "Braves" and not a peep of slaves worshiping John Carter. Dejah Thoris actually wore clothes and stood on her own. All good things in a movie.

Now I will read the next book in the series, John Carter. Here's to hoping there is less racism, sexism and white savior but I am not holding my breath.

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