I had mixed feelings about the prospect of seeing this film. I love taking Jared to the cinema. Usually Jane is there as well, of course, but he seems to get something out of the occasions when it is just him and me. On the other hand, I had a vague recollection of reading the original story by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I had a nasty feeling that it was about to be adapted almost out of recognition.
Naturally, we forgot the 3D glasses, and had to buy two more pairs. Our household now possesses nine pairs of 3D glasses, including one that has been specially designed to make the wearer look like Harry Potter.
We bought a medium Diet Coke, which for no apparent reason needed three straws (one for me, one for Jared, and one for The Goddess, possibly). Because there was no sugar in the Diet Coke, we then had to buy pick and mix to stave off the hypoglycaemia which threatened to afflict us once we had digested the takeaway pizza we had had for tea. I looked over Jared’s shoulder as he helped himself with the scoop. One piece of red liquorice ended up on the floor, but Jared just put it in the bag anyway. A few fizzy cola bottles. A few black and red berry jellies. A few of these. A few of those. Yes, that’s enough now. Oh. And three pieces of vanilla fudge. It came to GBP 7.29. His mother would have gone out of her mind. It was GBP 1.35 for 100 grams, and so he had selected 540 grams – over a pound. Fortunately, he has not eaten it all yet.
We took our seats in a virtually empty auditorium. A few people started to arrive: groups of talkative adults whom Jared didn’t like the look of. We had to move forward, to three rows from the front.
Jared wanted to see everything advertised in the trailers. He talks almost incessantly in the cinema unless repeatedly told not to. By the time the feature started, he was relatively quiet. I told him, ‘If you want to understand what is going on, the best thing to do is to watch a bit more,’ which could apply to experimental science as well as going to the pictures.
Now to the film itself. The John Carter of the original eleven books of Barsoomian tales is a ‘Southern Gentleman’. In the film, he starts off in New York. He flashes back to Arizona, and we get a very sanitised reference to the American Civil War, in which (in both film and books) John Carter fought for the Confederacy. The way I pictured the character in the books, he was clean-shaven, self-confident, and rather vacuous in a military kind of way. The film character has been adapted very predictably for a contemporary audience: he is haunted by his past, has a stubbly chin, and has what the army would consider to be a huge attitude problem.
The Tharks (tall, tusked aliens with four arms and green skin) were more-or-less as I had imagined them. The Red Martians’ skin tone reminded me regrettably of David Dickinson, or anybody else who had spent too long in the solarium (and, in my world, a nanosecond spent in a solarium is too long).
Dejah Thoris, the main female character and love interest, was delightfully camp and, in my opinion, relatively free of the ravages of Hollywood sexism. She is oppressed, but the whole point of her character is the way she engages with the oppression. She keeps going as long as she can, putting various assailants to the sword by her own hands. She is eventually rescued, of course, but with most of her dignity intact. The way she was portrayed reminded me somewhat of the character of Hermia in Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.
There are far too many battles and fights. This got quite boring. There were fewer technical details than in the books of the various weapons used by the Tharks and others, which was a good editorial decision. The primitive looking rifles used by the Tharks seemed to pack a lot of firepower, and the film was surprisingly free of the Hollywood custom of showing a fighting force firing off fifteen thousand rounds of ammunition and never killing anybody, or even causing a graze.
I cannot imagine what chain of global disasters would be required to prevent a sequel. There are of course ten more books to be adapted into oblivion.