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John Carter Is A Great Steampunk Movie

Updated on January 4, 2013

John Carter Of Mars Is Good Classic Steampunk

Walt Disney's movie John Carter is based on Edgar Rice Burroughs novel John Carter Of Mars.
Walt Disney's movie John Carter is based on Edgar Rice Burroughs novel John Carter Of Mars. | Source

A Princess Of Mars, 1917 Edgar Rice Burroughs

John Carter is based on the book A Princess Of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The book was first published in 1917 and is part of the Barsoom series. This series, and this book in particular, were the spark for planetary romance, a sub genre that endured for many decades. The story is of the dying planet of Mars and based on contemporary theories.

John Carter Embodies Steampunk

To all the nay sayers I say don't be a poo-pooer. John Carter is a good movie and worthy of being called steampunk. Although I agree the story differs greatly from its inspiration "A Princess Of Mars" it is still a fun watch with interesting characters and plots.

Many reviews I have read focus on the differences between the movie and the books. I think this is the wrong approach for enjoying this film. I have never read the books (but I will now) and found the movie to be better than I expected. In fact, I feel the story left off with sequels in mind I hope they come.

I think most would agree that it is hard for any movie to match the original written work and for that reason I think the criticisms are unfounded. Disney did a great job making this movie and I give them my thumbs up. Hopefully the negative critiques of the movie wont keep them from making more.

The movie entertaining and reminds in many ways of Baron Munchausen. The story is fantastical and jumps from adventure to adventure with seeming whimsy. The characters are easy to like because they are richly portrayed. The movie is full of sub themes and sub plots that take more than one viewing to catch. I think this movie will grow in popularity over time as it reaches the video markets and more people get a chance to watch it.

What Is Steampunk

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that is based on alternate histories and what if scenarios based on antiquated technology. Originally, the works were based on Victorian England. Fashion, characters and technology were all based on that period but altered as if history had progressed on a different timeline. The stories usually feature advanced technology that operated on clock works or steam engines, hence the name steam punk.

The term steampunk originated in the late 1980s but works with steampunk themes date back to the early part of the 18th century. Mary Shelley's "Frankensteins Monster", Jules Vernes "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea" and H.G. Wells "The Time Machine" are all recognized as precursors of the genre.

Modern steampunk now includes any retro futuristic science fiction. Works are based in Victorian England, the wild west, early America and others. Technologies are usually advance to modern standards but along different lines. Often times air ships or other early advances in technology that died out are featured. Characters often wear leather aprons, gloves or trench coats as protective gear from the steam and mechanical devices that drive their universe. Goggles are another common feature of steampunk gear.

John Carter Steampunk Review

John Carter is a textbook steampunk movie. It characterizes most, if not all, of the commonly recognized themes found in modern steampunk.

  • The Wild West - In the beginning of the movie John Carter is an ex cavalry officer searching for gold. He is hunting for a marker carved into a rock that looks like a star.
  • Victorian America - He has left a book to his heir describing his adventures, leaving some instructions for him to follow. They travel in carriages, wear bowler hats and have an interest in mystical, ancient artifacts.
  • Time/Space Travel - John Carter is transported to Mars by touching an amulet that has fallen from the hand of a space traveler coming to Earth through a portal. The visitor tries to kill John Carter but the tables are turned when the visitor ends up dead.
  • Advanced Technology - The Red and the Blue Martians both have advanced flying machines that are based on Roman warships. They even have oar-like wings sticking out the sides and are said to "sail on the light". Other twists on the Roman theme include the architecture and armor worn of the Red and Blue armies.
  • Alternate Time Line - The story assumes that the people of the time were not aware that there at least two races of people living on Mars. As the story develops evidence is revealed that there are ties between the Earth and Mars civilizations that dates back for centuries.
  • Alien Influence - Not only are there a race of two armed aliens that adopt John Carter as there champion and eventual leader there are also a race of other worldly beings that claim to work for the "goddess".

Classic Steampunk Movies

  • 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea - Disney, This is the movie that has set much of the visual standards of the genre. The machinery and costumes of this film have become a standard by which modern steampunk is measured.
  • The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen - This is the wild tale of Baron Munchausen, a 17th century figure fighting the Ottoman Turks. In the film fantastical machinery, space travel and alternate timelines are prominently featured.
  • Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome - This movie is more accurately described as Diesel Punk, a sub-sub genre of science fiction and one closely related to steampunk.
  • Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow- This is one of the most visually stunning of the modern steampunk movies. The story unfolds in a "modern" world dominated by air ships and goggle wearing heroes.

Basic Plot Of John Carter

John Carter is an ex cavalry officer searching for gold in the Arizona territory. He has left an account of his life along with an inheritance to a distant kinsman. In the account he is recalled to the army while hunting for gold. While trying to escape he stumbles upon what he is looking for and much, much more.

John Carter encounters a man while hiding in a cave and is transported to Mars, known as Basoon to the locals, by holding onto an amulet. Once there John Carter meets an alien race with four arms, gets involved in a political war, falls in love with a princess destined for an arranged marriage, defeats the evil city of Saldanga and develops the ability to jump long distances and lift heavy objects.

Along the way John Carter has many adventures. Each new encounter is rich with detail and characters. The filming, costumes, CGI and other aspects of the movie are top notch in my opinion. I would recommend this to a friend.


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