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John Carter: Old-Fashioned Sci-Fi Leaps to Life

A few weeks from now we'll find ourselves knee-deep in the summer blockbuster season, inundated by a gaggle of loud, bright, overdone action movies. It seems like every year these big studio barn-burners appeal to the lowest common denominator, shortchanging plot and character at the expense of cheap special-effect thrills. But in early spring, movie lovers get a chance to treat themselves to a different breed of sci-fi action film -- Disney's John Carter.

I've already written about the background of John Carter and the hundred-year journey from the novel's original publication to the movie's release. Edgar Rice Burroughs published the first John Carter novel in serialized form in 1911, a few years before the Tarzan novels which earned Burroughs his fame.

John Carter's story begins when Carter (Taylor Kitsch) sends his nephew, a young Burroughs (Daryl Sabara), a

telegram summoning him for a vist. When Burroughs arrives, Carter has died and left him his estate, including his valuable collection of artifacts from throughout the world, his unusual tomb, and the secretive journal of his adventures.

As Burroughs delves into the journal, Carter's tale unfolds in flashbacks. In the Old West, the enigmatic Carter, a captain in the Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War, searches Arizona Territory for a cave of gold. When Carter and an Army officer find themselves caught in the crossfire of a skirmish between Apaches and American soldiers, they hide in a cave. Once inside, Carter discovers unusual markings and begins exploring. He sees a strange-looking man in the cave, shoots him, and steals his medallion. The next thing Carter knows, he is on Mars.