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Is "John Carter" as good as "A Princess of Mars"

Updated on October 17, 2016
gposchman profile image

I've been watching movies since the early 1950s. This includes films from the 1920s and forward. Sometimes I need to share a review.

Frank Frezetta at his best, every teenage male's dream.
Frank Frezetta at his best, every teenage male's dream. | Source

A Princess of Mars

Not long ago a travesty occurred with the release of a movie entitled "A Princess of Mars". I can hope they meant well, but they failed on all accounts as a representation of the book written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. More recently Disney Studio's released a movie called "John Carter", have they traveled down the same disastrous path as the previous film maker?

Gore said it best

I think Gore Vidal said it best, I and I paraphrase it here, Edgar Rice Burroughs was not at his best with dialog, but nobody could tell an adventure story better. He was speaking about Burroughs “Tarzan” at the time but John Carter was an earlier hero and his adventures took place on Barsoom. For the uneducated that is what we call Mars.

Tarzan of the Apes

More than a comic book hero.
More than a comic book hero.

Edgar Rice Burrough's Barsoom

Before I Saw the Movie

I have yet to see the movie. I have reservations from the clips I have seen. “A Princess of Mars” was the first of a trilogy and a series of stories about Barsoom.

In the first book, the story begins much like the “Teaser” portrays it, but other scenes seem to tell of a massive war or invasion where the Earth is in danger, and that steps away from the story written by Burroughs. The characters seem to be reasonably close and so I will see the movie and judge for myself.

I came late to being an SF fan. I was in my late teens and it was the pulp science fiction of the thirties and forties that made me an avid SF reader. In my twenties, I joined the science fiction book club, and one of the first selections was “A Princess of Mars”. I was familiar with “Tarzan”, but only from the movies and was not really impressed with the story. But I kept the option for “A Princess of Mars” and discovered ERB as an author. As I look back I have to agree with Gore Vidal's assessment of Burroughs as an author. I read his dialog and find it contrived, but his narration and descriptions of adventure are riveting. As an adventure storyteller, he is the "Level" that others should strive to reach for.

After I read “A Princess of Mars”, I went to a local bookstore and found a paperback copy of “Tarzan”. I read it that day and I cannot express the mixed emotions I have for the amount of mediocre films that have been made of this marvelous character. Not a single filmmaker has ever come close to representing this character and the stories created by Burroughs. Many have touched upon elements of what Edgar Rice Burroughs has written, but none has actually told the story.

My concern is that Disney has forgotten what a brilliant storyteller ERB was and messed with a great adventure that doesn't really need Hollywood's touch to be a great movie. There will be more to come after I have seen the film.

John Carter of Mars, Yes
John Carter of Mars, Yes
Princess of Mars, No.
Princess of Mars, No.

After I have seen the Movie

"John Carter of Mars is not "The Princess of Mars", but that is not to say that Disney failed on all accounts. Every filmmaker has the right to tell the story of another writer as they see it, and the film is not called "The Princess of Mars". The filmmakers from Disney accessed elements of the first book and incorporated them into the story and those of us who know the original can be gratified by the attempt. They diverted from the world of Barsoom that Burroughs created, but they maintained an integrity and so I will forgive the diversion from the original. All in all, I enjoyed the familiarity of the story I knew and found their additions entertaining.

The Princess of Mars missed on casting, story and pretty much everything one would expect to see in a story originally written by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

If you can tear yourself away from the screen, the Gutenberg Project has both "The Princess of Mars" and "Tarzan" available online for free. However, if you like a book in hand, there are used paperbacks available for a few dollars and they are worth reading and rereading again and again.

Deja Thoris

She is haughty, arrogant, and beautiful. She is not blonde.
She is haughty, arrogant, and beautiful. She is not blonde.


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    • gposchman profile imageAUTHOR

      Gene Poschman 

      21 months ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      Jodah, you'll have to read the first two Tarzan books as the first is a cliff hanger. ERB told adventure better than anyone and was a writer from his period. He appealed the young reader in all of us. Don't bother with the "Princess of Mars" movie, I couldn't get through it.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      21 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Hi Gene. I have read most of the ERB, John Carter novels in my youth and still have about four or five of the paperbacks in my collection. I have not seen the movie "Princess of Mars" but have seen "John Carter" and it had enough in common with the book so that I could relate and to keep me entertained. I have not unfortunately read the original Tarzan, but on your positive review I need to remedy that. Good hub, thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      The wife and I were going to go today but got tied up with family business. Maybe next weekend.

    • gposchman profile imageAUTHOR

      Gene Poschman 

      6 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      To be honest I wasn't going to watch beyond the updated to Vietnam vet opening, and it went downhill from there. I have more hope for the Disney version, but I figure if it is a decent film, I'll be happy. The good news is I got Cinemark passes for Christmas, so it wont cost me anything.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Disney's primary error in their approach to the works of other creators is they tend to market them as "Disney's X". Like "Disney's Tarzan" or "Disney's John Carter". While these may be their "takes" on these properties, the fact of the matter is it's "Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan" or "Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars".

      I think their advertising would have done much better if it read: "Disney Presents: From the Creator of Tarzan of the Apes - John Carter: A Princess of Mars".

      I have seen the previous movie (A Princess of Mars) with Antonio Sabato and Elizabeth Tracy Lords. Couldn't watch all of it because it was just so bad!


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