John Carter Vivid Example Of Sword And Planet Stories

I’d like to begin this blog post with a brief, but simple, rant.  Many film critics do not understand the pulps.  They do not know the origins of the material which they so casually lampoon.  If they did understand pulp sci-fi stories like Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess Of Mars, then they would understand what a faithful, accurate, and inspired take on the stories Disney’s John Carter actually is.  Instead a meme has now formed that the film is a “bomb” and that it is not worth seeing.  Rubbish.  If you like the Sword and Planet genre, or even just adventure stories, then you need to see this movie.

Seeing the movie myself this past Friday night got me to thinking about a lot of the great books it was built on.  Here’s a short list:

  A Princess Of Mars / Edgar Rice Burroughs  — Published way back in 1912, this is the tale that started it all.  Virginia gentleman and Civil War veteran John Carter finds himself transported to a planet Mars brimming with aliens, strange cultures, and unfettered action!

The Gods Of Mars: A Tale Of Barsoom / Edgar Rice Burroughs — The second book in Burroughs’ Barsoom cycle, this tale kicks the series into high gear, and further expands the lore and cultures of Mars.

Almuric / Robert E. Howard — One of the many amazing talents inspired by Burroughs work was Robert E. Howard, and his Almuric tales are just one example of the great titles you can find in the awesome Planet Stories Library series CLP has been acquiring the last couple of years.

These sorts of pulp tales are not for everyone, and not without their faults.  A touch of racial insensitivity, lack of strong female protagonists, and over-reliance on coincidence and chance to move the story will raise some eyebrows, but the overall energy, innocence, and power of these tales will win through if given the chance.  Like 1980’s Flash Gordon feature film, John Carter is not a perfect movie, but it’s darn good fun, and seems destined to become an under-appreciated  torch bearer for the Sword and Planet genre.

–Scott

6 Comments

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6 responses to “John Carter Vivid Example Of Sword And Planet Stories

  1. Glad I’m not the only who got strong Flash Gordon vibes from this movie!

  2. Hear, hear! I saw the film and was just has happy with it as I had expected to be. The few bits of license taken by the film-makers were positive, and properly fit more modern audiences.

    I’ve always loved the old “pulp” action and science fiction stories, both in books and those which made it to radio (I’m an avid collector of those). In most cases I’ve always believed that the graphics in the books and on the radio were always better than anything genned by Hollywood, but I’ve got to say I was quite bowled over by the CGI in this one.

  3. I’ve never read them, but one of my favorite authors (Spider Robinson) regularly pays homage. I listened to a horrible review on the radio yesterday and wrote the movie off…but I’ll give it a try now!

  4. I agree with Scott. I watched the movie John Carter last friday, and it must have made an impression, for I remember its title and the fact that I did not fall asleep when the story went into flashback after the first few minutes. I think it was the Wild West detals and events shown that grabbed my attention. I therefore think Disney has donea good job at entertaining me.

  5. “A touch of racial insensitivity, lack of strong female protagonists,…”

    That was the world in those days. Just read Mark Twain; watch “Birth of a Nation”.

    And women weren’t even allowed to vote, much less go tromping across the countryside slaying mastodons. We’ve grown since then.

    I think I read the Burroughs stories a long time ago; I’ll read them again soon.

    At least one writer suggested that perhaps John Carter was the inspiration for Superman.

    bibliokaren: I’m a Spider Robinson fan, too. I liked his short stories, especially the Callahan’s series.

    Maybe you can help: There’s an s-f writer I liked who wrote pretty hard science-fiction under a male pseudonym. It wasn’t till much later that it was revealed that she was a she.

    “Carter” came in just behind “Lorax”, with $30 million – way ahead of #3.

    Roger Ebert has a lukewarm review that praises with faint damns. But then, what does he know?

    I was disappointed to see that they’ve wrapped the story with some sort of Burroughs flashback.

    (Fascinating connection: Ciarán Hinds is Tardos Mors – we saw him a while back in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”.)

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