Monday, 4 January 2010

Room At The Asylum For ...

Princess Of Mars
‘‘What is wrong with you Tharks ?. Don’t you guys have reality TV !?’’

Be prepared to be transported to a fantastical distant world, where the landscape is a vista of rock and sand. A desert whose oasis is watered with weird and hostile creatures. U.S Special Forces operative John Carter (Antonio Sabato Jnr) has an enforced leave ticket to this strange world known as Mars 216. A small orbiting world to the fourth planet from the sun in the Alpha Centari quadrant. There’s no space travel to undertake, just a small matter of uploading his life force matrix to a memory stick, and then downloading his very being to be reconstituted in human form on Mars !. When you sign up with the U.S Army you don’t expect the small print to allow for a gig like this !.

Near fatally injured in combat John Carter is pretty much given a no choice scenario of die or sign up for the militaries experimental covert operation. Some kind of inter dimensional displacement programme. Carter Loses consciousness, only to reawaken in a strange new land. A place that is environmentally desolate and devoid of vegetation. A world where John Carter is reborn, with the abilities of a super man !. Like Kal-El leaving his home planet of Krypton as an equal amongst his people, to arrive upon Earth as a supreme being from an Alien world. Carter is able to leap and bound to great heights and distances. His strength is greatly multiplied, and his naked torso is a butt beacon for the resident Tharks, indigenous to Mars.
Carter is taken prisoner by Thark military commander Tars Tarkas, and is soon put to a trial of survival. Pitted against a giant oversized ant like creature, Carter quickly puts his new found super skills into Action. Like stepping into a late night showing of Them (1954) Carter and the Tharks are soon taken totally by surprise by the arrival on scene of a multitude of marauding monster ant alienoids, mandibles on munch mode !. Rather than easily bound away to a vantage of safety Carter stays and fights alongside the Tharks, gaining their respect and the hand of friendship of Tars Tarkas.

Carter is introduced to some of the Tharks ways, including the basic requirements of water and food, with some quirkily barf inducing introductions. The language barrier issue is overcome by Carter ingesting a live bug called a Jubilee Beetle. The beneficial qualities being that its own enzymes enables speech patterns to conjoin, tasting like crap but they help you speak with your mouth full, and so John Carter is up specked to conversing in, and understanding Thark.

Mars is a planet made up of two separate Alien factions. The Tharks and the humanoids. The Tharks are of human build, with atypically two arms and two legs, but also a scaly skin texture and tusk like mandibles like a Predator. The humanoids are the planet Mars’ equivalent of Earths human race. Their royal benefactor is Dejah Thoris (Traci Lords), Princess of Mars !. The Tharks bare malice against the Humanoids, believing that their status of superior beings is self imposed, and that they are not as benevolent as they portray themselves to be. The planets oxygen supply is provided by a huge power station that purifies and pumps the essential air supply around the globe. It was created by and is maintained by the Humanoids, and has been in place for centuries. Without it the planets entire air breathing populace would die. The Thark hierarchy believe this is simply propaganda to keep them subjugated, and keep the Humanoids in power.
It is not, however, the Thark insurgence that threatens a disharmonious challenge to the validity of the pumping station, but that of another human from Earth !.
On his home world John Carter’s special ops missions regularly brought him up against a particularly virulent nemesis named Sarka. Unbeknownst to Carter his nemesis has somehow followed him through the inter world displacement vortex. Sarka is reborn as Sab Than, intent on becoming supreme ruler of Mars by closing down the pumping facility, only to miraculously restart it, giving life saving air to those that he believes will worship him as a Messiah.

Thark commander Tars Tarkas is forced into deciding what is best for his people as his own great leader strips him of position for befriending John Carter, and siding with Princess Dejah Thoris. John Carter fights to stand up for both Tars Tarkas and Dejah Thoris, and their entwined adventure plays out with a fair deal of enjoy ability.

The design team, matte artists and creature effects people do a creditable job in adding to the suitably barren countenance of the planets desolate landscape. Biped cross variants of the camel and ostrich provide an alien mode of transport. The ant like monstrosities are super animated into the live Action proceedings with an old school Ray Harryhausen inspiration, as are the spider like flying creatures that attack under cover of night. Winged beasts with multiple legs and a taste for flesh, dispensed of by John Carter and Tars Tarkas with designer alien rifles, shooting them out of the air with a splurge of green blood.
A Fun comic book styled Sci Fi Adventure movie matinee flick, Princess Of Mars is ‘B’ movie budgeted entertainment done well by the production stable that is The Asylum. There’s a familiar old school kitsch Sci-Fi charm on display, reminiscent of the original series Star Trek. With some familiar landscapes to behold casual viewers could be forgiven for thinking that they had jumped in on a double episode of the classic TV show. Star Antonio Sabato Jnr stands up well in the lead role of John Carter. A creditable performance as Earths gladiator on Mars. Traci Lords is still looking pretty good having now passed forty, dignified with a meatier part that she doesn’t suck at !.
Princess Of Mars is a pretty good entrée into the world created by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Perhaps The Asylum will follow this up with further tales from the series, to enticingly tide its audience over until the highly anticipated, mega budgeted, Disney Studios colossus, John Carter Of Mars hit’s the multiplexes in 2012 !?.

Movie Rating: 5/10

Review Paul Cooke / Source Region 1 NTSC DVD

Princess Of Mars (2009)
Director Mark Atkins
With Antonio Sabato Jnr, Traci Lords,
Matt Lasky, Chacko Vardakas & Mitchell Gordon


  1. Thanks so much, I've been dying to know what this was going to be like. They took a lot of liberties, but that is fine-better than mangling the source material in my opinion.


  2. Hey Paul, I've just given your blog an award. I hope you check it out:

  3. Hans, Thank you kind sir. I have bestowed upon thee too an applicable Award :) .