A Pulp Hero Neutered: The Absent Manliness in John Carter

   Good afternon all, I originally wrote down these thoughts last year, for a discussion over the film adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs "A Princess of Mars" into the awful Disney flick John Carter. As my opinion with what felt most decidedly wrong with the movie, had to do with the protagonist not embodying any of the virtues that make him a masculine paragon in the novel, I thought this forum might enjoy it. Let me know what you all think.

   While many film goers have ripped apart John Carter over a variety of reasons, (excessive CGI, baffling plot, poor marketing), I haven't encountered a review mirrored my own gripes.  It is, of course, an adaptation of the early 20th century novel, not a direct translation. But in adapting the protagonist, Captain John Carter, C.S.A, for the modern audience, the writers threw out the classic character entirely. The only ressemblance the Taylor Kitsch character bears to the hero of the books is his name.   

   The hero of the books is, in many ways, a masculine paragon. He's noble, takes everything in stride, is a peerless warrior,  highly cultured, a beacon of chivalry, and willing to put himself on the line for others.  His big 3D screen counterpart, is surly, selfish, reluctant to involve himself in anything, mopey, and immediately offers to hide behind a woman in a swordfight. He also shows no further courtesy to said woman than patronizingly calling her "ma'am", in the one moment he manages to fake a southern accent.   

  At least for my part, whatever author decided to turn the warrior gentleman John Carter into a fumbly, reluctant grouch, growling a bad Christian Bale impression, fell leagues short.  Does the modern audience really want their male heroes to be watered down milksops, while all female characters are transformed into nonsensical Xena figures? Does an old school hero from the early pulp books have no place in modern entertainment? Let me know your thoughts! 

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I have been a long time ERB fan and overall I like the movie since I have not come to expect much form Hollywood. 

I did not like the brooding pacifist widower John Carter.  I did like the additional character build up showing his pre- and post-Barsoom adventures.  Overall I liked the visual and they seemed to have put more effort than usual into following the books.  The "plot" was mostly nonsense.  The moment when he began to break out of his funk and attacked an army of Tharks gets a little more back to character. 

Compared to the Hollywood emasculation of Tarzan, John Carter got off pretty easy. 

Although it would probably be a bit better than the Ron Ely version I dread Hollywood trying Doc Savage.  The actor would probably make an anti-gun speech with a lisp and stylish hair toss while Pat Savage saved the day. 

  Oh yeah, I forgot what they did to poor Lord Greystoke!  I pretty much concur with you though, aside from what they did with Carter, it really wasn't a bad adaptation. It certainly came out better than the adaptation of Solomon Kane they cranked out a few years ago. I'm not sure if that ever got an American release or not.

   I can remember seeing that old Doc Savage movie with my kid brother a long time ago. We had a pretty good time with that. Thanks for your input!

It was a pain but I found a copy of Solomon Kane a while ago.  It does not follow the stories exactly.  I suppose the movie going audience needed an origin story which REH never wrote.  In the end the movie produces a fairly good character of Solomon Kane but the story is a little goofy.  The choreography is pretty good and never resorts to any Xena back flips. 

A sequel could be a lot better now that the character is established.  The repeated rumor is that the movie was considered too Christian to be picked up for US release but I have seen DVDs on Ebay.  Some independent movie critics actually gave it glowing reviews even though they felt the need to apologize for liking such a religious action flick.

I would pay good money to see a Solomon Kane sequel. Having said that, I was apparently one of the few who liked the Conan remake, so perhaps my taste in films should not be taken as a good one.

    True, as an origin tale it wasn't too bad. James Purefoy is actually a pretty great actor in my opinion, and someday when hollywood finds a big action vehicle for him, I think he could really take off.  

     I hadn't heard the rumours about him being "too Christian", though that doesn't really surprise me. Given many folks' take on the Puritans these days, that would hurt him as far as being relatable goes.   I expect that was a reason behind not casting Carter with a Robert E Lee or basso Foghorn Leghorn accent.

There has been some speculation about doing a Solomon Kane TV series possibly even aimed at one of the Christian channels.  http://www.conan.com/invboard/index.php?showforum=14   The consensus seems to be that that is not the view of Christian morality that these channels might want to portray.  I grudgingly have to agree with their point that it might not be appropriate in that format.  Too bad though since it could be much edgier than Walking Dead or the likes if written right. 

  The serial style of the tales would lend themselves really well to a t.v show. I can see where the content might be a bit much for the networks however. I have a good number of friends who are Christian media fans, and I can't see them enjoying vampyre hunting in the hills of Africa. Though I'm sure some people would! 

  Maybe HBO could pick it up?

If it half way stuck to Howard's stories I would watch it.  Howard alluded to so many unwritten Solomon Kane stories set in America, sailing, and in Spain that they could mix direct and new stories easily.  I guess it would just take a passionate person to sell HBO on the idea.  They could probably use the Dark Horse comics as story boards. 

It does not sound like John Carter is going to get a 2nd chance due to low profits. 

I have a couple radio drama pilots for Doc Savage which I feel are just a little too trimmed but still prove that it could be a viable movie/TV series since it worked for radio.  http://www.radioarchives.com/SearchResults.asp?Search=doc+savage&am...

Do we not have an Shadow fans here?  Not my favorite but still.

What ? Who? 

He's noble, takes everything in stride, is a peerless warrior,  highly cultured, a beacon of chivalry, and willing to put himself on the line for others.

The problem is that these characters are not really believable and they are very 2-dimensional.

That being said, I've read neither the book nor seen the movie. I'll settle on a vague thesis that the filmmakers were trying to put their own twist on the story so that it wasn't a 'direct translation' as you said.

  This is true, and perhaps the detracting factor to fiction from this genre. At times you do need a balancing factor, and a little more humanism. I think that's a challenge all authors face in fiction, especially adventure or science fiction. How does one make a protagonist competent, but relatable, and successful while vulnerable? I'm writing my 5th book right now, (none have passed my "should be allowed to see daylight"), here's hoping I can pull it off!

Full Disclosure:  I haven't seen the movie, and I couldn't get into the book when I encountered it in my teens.

Now.  Having seen some of the derisive Tarzan adaptations and the Doc Savage flick, all I can say is:  you need a combination of an understanding of the historical period (not just the history form school, mind you, an appreciation of the time frame is required) and a willingness to reject modern "correctness" in the characters to really "get" the story.  A willingness to accept a certain amount of horses**t in the script is also required (How else would you accept Conan the Barbarian?) 

Part of the problem is that nobody in the movie industry really understands the mindset necessary to produce and appreciate the early 20th century "boys' own adventure" books of the Tarzan and Doc Savage genre.

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