This week’s blog post, like I mentioned last week, is going to be a review. And, because I am doing “Sword and Planet Fantasy” this month, I decided to pick a movie that would go well into that genre. That movie is John Carter produced in 2012 by Andrew Stanton. This is based off the book by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Something I learned within the movie is that one of the initials characters we meet at the beginning is the “nephew” to John Carter, Edgar Rice Burroughs (guess he wanted to put himself into his novels quite literally).
Anyways, before we go further, let’s review what the characteristics of a Sword and Planet Fantasy novel are. They are:
1) There is a hero, usually an Earthman, and he typically uses a sword to fight off an alien race while trying to rescue a damsel in distress.
2) Adventure. Lots of adventure. There needs to be in order to make up for the generally stock-type characters that develop in these types of novels.
3) Anachronistic situations. For example, aliens possessing the technology to use space crafts, but domesticated animals are used for ground transportation.
Firstly, yes, there is a hero and his name is John Carter and he is from Earth. He is a rebel fighter from the southern state of Virginia (as this story takes place during the Civil War, 1881 to be exact). He is rude-mannered but seems to know his way around a fight. He is a loner and no longer is married and with child as they died some years before this story takes place. With that being said, he definitely seems to be a stock-type character as there are not many unique qualities about him, and, in truth, this is fine there are many characters in today’s literature that are not that impressively unique but as long as they grow by the end of the novel then who cares?
During the movie, although there are guns and laser beams a plenty, much of the battling is done using spears and swords. Although, I do admit, some of these swords can materialize with this blue light called “the ninth ray” that is supposedly the source of life and infinite energy. It has a variety of ways that it can be utilized in the movie and freezes people who come in contact with it, also it controls people who are in contact with a source-holder (one of the people who hold a special medallion that utilizes its power). These powers don’t seem to be very consistent as, for example, the main villain throughout much of the story “Sab Than” can utilize this laser beam weapon on his arm given to him by these deity-like beings, but he chooses to use this weapon as a sword most of the time.
These instances speak of the anachronistic situations that are prevalent throughout the movie. Now, did these situations really detract from the story, no, I don’t think so, because the movie did such a good job at drawing us in right away with a lot of action which, what do you know, is the last trait we have to talk about.
Right from the very beginning we get introduced to the two separate warring factions on Mars, or Basoon as it’s called in the movie. A fight scene occurs and Sab Than gets bestowed with a weapon of ultimate power with the claim that he will rule over all of Basoon if he obeys the deity-like beings that stop the warring. There are many more fight sequences throughout the movie but one of the final scenes is a great coliseum type battle with two giant, but blind, white apes with four arms. John Carter does what he does best and destroys them and then goes after Sab Than and tries to reclaim Helium (the name of the city) for the damsel in distress who is meant to marry him.
Although a lot of this is just summarization of the movie, I do it to show that this movie is a definite archetype of the Sword and Planet Fantasy genre. It’s 100% Sword and Planet Fantasy and I can see why it is considered the pedigree for this type of genre. I give the move, in general, a 7/10 because it didn’t mention a few critical things early enough and relied too much on the action instead of character building. This lack of character building also led to lack of a defined intention for some of the characters including the antagonist (we never really know what he’s going to do if he gets his way).
Anyways, do you know any other movies that may fit this genre? Have you seen this movie? What did you think of it? Do you believe, as well, that it fits this genre type? I would love to know, leave your comments below.
– Michael E. Thies
P.S. If you have an idea of the type of fantasy you’d like to discuss next month let me know as well.