Awfully Good: Princess of Mars
1. Congrats to "iamtheminn," the winner of last week's caption contest, as chosen by The Arrow himself! You can email me your pick for the next column!
2. You should see JOHN CARTER this weekend. It's pretty good. Though it's lacking in underwear models and former porn stars.
Princess of Mars (2009)
Director: Mark Atkins
Stars: Antonio Sabato Jr., Traci Lords, Matt Lasky
Is there a plot?
JOHN CARTER with Antonio Sabato Jr. and Traci Lords.
What's the damage?
This is what happens when copyrights expire and properties become available to everyone for the taking. Cinematic failmakers The Asylum didn’t even have to change character names or come up with a ripoff title (ala TRANSMORPHERS, SNAKES ON A TRAIN, AVH: ALIEN VS HUNTER). They just made their own John Carter movie—sorta. PRINCESS OF MARS was rushed out to coincide with the release of AVATAR (which itself "borrows" heavily from Edgar Rice Burrough's work). I guess Barsoom was easier and cheaper than ripping off James Cameron.
"Smell that? That ain't Thark, princess."
I made the mistake of seeing Disney's big budget JOHN CARTER right before I watched this and PRINCESS OF MARS indeed plays out like a bare bones version of the same story with cheaper production, worse acting and less common sense. This John Carter is a special ops sniper serving in modern Afghanistan (saving the audience from Antonio Sabato Jr. pretending to be a Civil War-era soldier) who gets literally transferred via a 16 gig flash drive to Mars 216 in the Alpha Centauri star system. There he fights giant flies and spiders (because they're easier to make than animating actual aliens from scratch) and meets two warring extraterrestrial races. What are the aliens fighting over? The most boring plot device ever—air purification!
Okay, I get Slave Leia, but who invited Maximus from GLADIATOR and THE LAST SAMURAI?
Now caught between the two tribes, Carter soon discovers the real bad guy is…his arch nemesis from Afghanistan! That’s right. John Carter goes all the way to Mars, meets magical aliens and then has to fight a human terrorist he just so happens to know. (Ignoring the convenient fact that the bad guy gets to Mars and immediately decides to try to take it over. Who does that?)
Behold, the Jailbait Avenger!
The acting is pretty much what you expect from an underwear model and a former porn star. Antonio Sabato Jr. was clearly hired based on his shirtless experience, though nobody thought it might be a good idea to cover up our hero's tramp stamp. He spends a big chunk of the movie drinking alien sweat or eating alien vomit and occasionally throwing a lazy punch or doing an action beat in front of a greenscreen. Lucky for him, half of the people on Mars look like Traci Lords. Lords doesn't look too shabby for being over 40, but she is way too old to play Dejah Thoris. (Not to mention her pale skin, blonde hair and blue eyes is pretty much the exact opposite of the Red Martians from Burrough's work.) Lords spends most of her screen time chained up, sitting in a cage and—of course, since this is a sci-fi movie—wearing the Slave Leia costume from RETURN OF THE JEDI.
The only thing the big budget JOHN CARTER is missing: Tramp Stamp.
Tharks, the other alien race on Mars, also look like they stole their look from the leftovers in the Star Wars costume department. Their Halloween-style make up is laughably rubbery and fake (watch their tusks jiggle when they talk!) and pretty much every Thark sounds incredibly constipated when they talk. They also do karate and use modern human guns for some reason. But that is all just a symptom of a movie that is obviously cheap but also unnecessarily lazy. You know how filmmakers use dry ice to make it look like something is smoking? In PRINCESS OF MARS they do this…but use clear glass containers so you can clearly see the dry ice sitting inside.
"To all the people who don't like THE BIG HIT."
A Thark calmly breaks the news to John Carter that he has been covered in urine.
A collection of terrible acting, Traci Lords fighting fake spiders, and a former Calvin Klein model drinking alien sweat.
Traci Lords in a Slave Leia costume. Don’t worry, she's legal now.
Play Along at Home!
Take a shot or drink every time:
- You can see John Carter's tramp stamp
- John Carter eats or drinks something that came out of an alien
- Someone fights a CGI creature
- Someone flips the bird
- A woman is punched
Double shot if:
- “Keep the air clean and bright!”