When the first trailer came out, my curiosity was intense. What was the filmaker’s vision of what the 4-armed, betusked Green Men looked like? Did they come close to the picture in my mind’s eye of a thoat? What would Dejah Thoris be wearing? Ultimately, it was a disappointment — had to be a disappointment. That’s the sticking point: even for fans of the series, everyone had their own private and intensely personal vision of what the characters should look like. For that, we can’t blame the film makers. They actually did an amazing job in bringing Tars Tarkas and the thoat to life:
Besides, everyone today knows that there is no life on Mars, could never be life on Mars, thus destroying the premise of the movie from the outset. And since most of the potential movie-going audience had no preconceived notions of the source material, and had no treasured memories of being swept up by the narrative, most of the audience ended up at sea — caught between wanting to suspend belief and their own realistic assumptions about Mars. In the end, how could you ignore what your own eyes have shown you about the Red Planet? We’ve had rovers exploring the surface of Mars for more than a decade. Those spectacular images of utter desolation were, in their own way, far more interesting than the world that Stanton tried to create on a Hollywood sound stage.
It’s a shame that John Carter was a flop. There will be no sequels. Nor will there be any lunch boxes, action figures, kids’ pajamas, battery operated thoats, and almost certainly no talking Tars Tarkas dolls.
But we’ll always have John Carter as Edgar Rice Burroughs imagined him in his wonderful series of books. For that, they can keep their $200 million and leave me dreaming about dating Dejah Thoris’ sister while saving Barsoom from the evil designs of evil men.