First of all allow me to admit I have not yet read the original book “A Princess of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs on which this movie is based. What I do know from reading upon the subject and talking to people that did read it, is that Disney has, as is to be expected with these things, some liberties with the cinematographic story.
Visually this movie is fantastic, the costumes, effects and characters are beautifully done. The airships, well I could rave on for quite a while on how fabulously done these Davincian flyers looked and moved. This entire movie is simply aesthetically pleasing and has quite a few steampunk elements in both cities (Zodanga especially, as they really focus on it walking and moving about in several scenes, but Helium and especially Dejah’s ninth ray device are prime examples also).
Story wise they largely follow the first book in the Barsoom series, from Captain John Carter seeking fortune in Virginia and through a series of unfortunate and downright bizar events he ends up not only on Mars (or Barsoom as the locals call it) but also with Sola, a Thark (green martian) ally and Dejah Thoris , the Princess of Helium and Regent of their Royal Science Academy and the multipawed (I’m not sure the Calot really have 10 paws in the movie) reptilian dog Woola at his side on his quest to find his way home. Even though home may not turn out to be exactly where he though it was.
In the midst of that he not only has to save the princess from a loveless marriage of convenience, but he may have to save the whole of the planet whilst at it as well.
As far as the story goes I thought it actually made sense for people that haven’t read the book, which is something that often doesn’t happen. They spend enough time on John Carter’s past so people could identify with our hero and understand what exactly makes him tick, but they didn’t over do it. I think that there was a right amount of personal history to the character involved, and enough background given about the others. I would have liked to find out more about the villains of the story though as I found them personally quite interesting, the manipulators behind society, they may have not been a new type of villain, but Mark Strong did an excellent job portraying the charismatic Matai Shang. Whilst the other actors definitely did a fine job, I thought he quite stood out.
What I also really liked, aside from the aesthetic, was the general storytelling. This isn’t just a sci-fi adventure movie, it’s also touching, and downright funny at times. And that sets it apart from the so manieth blockbuster based on a book that Hollywood has become so well known for.
I’m not sure in how far I would recommend this to parents with young children as there is a fair amount of violence, but aside from that I’d definitely urge everyone to go see it. Especially if you love sci-fi, Victoriana, Davinci style flying machines and a good action story with more draft than the average “hero goes to shoot up the pesky villains”.
As a side note: I did see in theatre but not in 3D, so I have no clue how well those effects are done. In 2D it was absolutely stunning so don’t feel obliged to go for the more expensive 3D version if you have the choice between both.