The earth world is not in immediate danger in the fourth sci fi film John Carter which I saw in TV 3D this weekend. A young man is called to the home of his wealthy uncle by telegram to find that he had died and is in a tomb which cannot be opened from the outside. He inherits the home and the wealth plus a diary which it is also important for him to read. The Diary is the story of John Carter, an adventuring former seaman. The film is directed by the man who directed Finding Nemo and Wall E two excellent animated films. It is the first of series of novels about intergalactic adventures of the superhero. It costs an extraordinary $250 million to make and only made marginal profit in terms of superhero CGI films.
We only learn the back story of John Carter in snatches during the film, as action commences with Carter a former serving officer with knowledge of Apache Indian dialect is required to assist the local officer commanding in Arizona but declines because it prevents his searching for a legendary cave of gold, reminding of the Indiana Jones series and other of similar ilk.
He is held and breaks out and followed by the Colonel and his troop hey run into the apache, and with his horse shot from under him, Carter rescues the Colonel and hen head for a mountain and hide out in cave which the Apache move quickly away from.
The cave is in fact a portal, hence the connection between this film and the previous where the earth world was under threat. He encounters unknown to him a super being who surprisingly he is able to kill, the basic flaw in the whole story and consequential series, and then getting hold of an object the man held and connecting it to a design in the rock of a similar nature he is transported to another planet mars, when he discovers that because of the different air density is able to move in giant leaps high as well as long.
He encounters a non human race of sentient beings that have four arms and a different bone density which prevents them from possessing the same agility and it is this difference between them prevents him killed. This race described as Green Martians Tharks led by Tars Tarkas William Dafoe who has a rival Tal Hajas. Tars see value in using the skills of Carter and want to make him their lead warrior which would further undermine the cause of his rival. Into the scene comes his unrecognised daughter who is something of a rebel and with the power to help Carter communicate by being able to understand the different language.
Also on the planet are two groups of human appearance beings who have been at war. The first group live in a fixed city of Helium whose leader is played by established actor Ciarin Hinds and who agrees to a plan to stop the conflict with the nomadic city of Zodanga with established actor Dominic West as it head Sab Than. The plan is to marry off his daughter Dejah played by Lynn Collins although this is a ploy by Sab to gain control of Helium and the super weapon being developed by the daughter under the guiding control of the chief of the Therns the race of super human beings, and shape shifters played by the established actor Mark Strong who likes to intervene in the fate of planets and their people in order to maintain a balance which leaves them the superbeings of eternity which brings me back to how Carter managed to kill off the being who happened to be in the cave at the time he arrived outnumbered with the wounded colonel.
With the help of the daughter of the green Martian leader, and his turning a blind eye he escapes with a view to reaching a place with the portal to earth accessed only by boat on the only remaining water on the planet, sacred ancestral ground where the daughter intends to die and join her long departed mother.
On the way they encounter a situation where the Princess of Helium is travelling to meet up with betrothed in the company of her trusted aide played by James Purefoy a renowned Shakespearean, theatrical TV and film actor, thus emphasising the quality of the ensemble cast in the film. She makes her escape aided by Carter and then promises to help him get to his destination although Sola, Tars daughter, quickly works out the Princess is leading them to Helium. They part company with sola making her way to Helium and although Carter reaches the portal he is chased and then recaptured by the green Martians and then finds that their leader is imprisoned and replaced by his rival having beaten him by trial in combat in the arena. He decides to settle the situation by getting Carter, the leader and his daughter into the arena handicapped to meet not one but two giant creatures. Fortunately he is able to use his comparative super strength and agility to master the beasts and then to defeat Tal, restoring Tars, and as their champion commanding the loyalty of the fighting force and people.
In the interim Carter has discovered that the portal is an intergalactic energy forces which can be used through the device he first hand held, lost on his arrival on mars and which became the possession of a green Martian and is subsequently given by the Princess to Carter to return to earth while she goes off to marry and end the conflict between the two cities.
Carter instead of returning to earth has become attached to the Princess and on learning the role of the Therns in manipulating the peoples of worlds is also horrified to learn the next step is to use the marriage ceremony as the time for Helium to be subjugated and the planet to be fully controlled by the Therns. Carter uses a captured Zodanga fighting craft to get to Helium in time to stop the wedding and warns of the Zodanga army outside so they are able to hold off until the green Martian army arrives and Helium is saved. Rather than return to earth, Carter elects to stay, marry the Princess and throws away the medallion key to space travel. The leader of the Therns uses this moment to get his revenge for changing his plans and returns Carter to earth with the key.
We learn that Carter spent ten years in his search for traces of the Therns on earth in the hope of finding one of the keys so he can return to Mars and during this time he had many adventures, became wealthy leading to his sudden death and bequest to his nephew. Earlier we had learned that Carter had discovered the burnt out remains of his home, and who I presumed was the body of his wife and son, perhaps it was his sister and the boy survived. Anyway I am still not clear about the existence of the nephew.
The young man having read the diary is under the impression that Cater had found a key and returned to Mars. Carter had noted that he felt he was being watched by agents of the Therns and had devised the tomb so it could have only been opened from the inside thus putting the Thern of his track The nephew investigates and works out that the wording the telegram was a coded message on how to open the tomb which he does only to find it empty and the arrival of the Thern leader, a trap set by Carter who had never found the key worked out the plan to lure the leader where as planned he is able to kill him and take the man’s key to return to Mars, his wife and further inter galactic adventures.
Alas we are unlikely to learn more because the comparative new head of Walt Disney was forced to resign because of up front costs and box office failure. The rest of the planned trilogy of films has been abandoned. At least for now.