Princess, John Carter, Tars the TharkMoola the pet, White Apes in Arena
Based on Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, but funnier I think. Preview Mañana will condense plot and Commentary, separate spoilers, revise, finish review. For now, first part of second draft ...
Tars voices over zoom on fantabuloustic effects. Red planet Mars is really Barsoom, whose dying is caused by "Zondanga, the predator city". "Moving, draining", resisted only by city of Helium, matching airship for airship, holding fast for a thousand years, until one day, the ruler of Zodanga became cornered in a sandstorm, and everything changed". (Aside: Plunge right into tricksy spellings, thankfully old-fashioned poetic pronounceable style, not 21st century hyphenated apostrophed oddness.)
Huge crimson tinted fire and sword battle, broken by bald floating elders, led by Thekkador aka Matai Shang (Mark Strong), "from the Goddess", who brings a glowing metallic-net arm gauntlet to Sab Than (Dominic West), that he might rule. The real Utah landscape is a character itself - harsh, beautiful, unforgiving.
In Victorian London, "Ned" Edgar Rice Burroughs (Daryl Sabara) arrives at his uncle Carter's mansion, and is given his entire fortune, in trust, and private journal, where he may find answers to Carter's sudden death, though the "model of health and vigor", his refusal of embalming or cremation, mausoleum opening only on inside.
"This wild tale begins 13 years ago in the Arizona territories .. the backside of Hell", where Colonel Powell (Bryan Cranston) tries to enlist Confederate Carter, with increasing violence, to tame native Apaches. "I have already paid .. in full, sir." Carter escapes imprisonment in the bull pit, pursued by the Cavalry, who shoot first on meeting "Domingo's band". Carter rescues Powell, and finds a red stone cave, filled with gold, identified by a strange huge "spider" marking (symbol never explained).
An Elder (called a Tharn) appears, attacks. Dying, he hands Carter a glowing medallion, saying "Barsoom". Carter repeats 'Barsoom", is instantly transported to another stony desert landscape. After a comical interlude of trips and falls, he finally adapts to soaring leaps in the lighter gravity. Beneath a window marked with the "spider", eggs hatch green aliens, and a 9' very tall and thin four-armed tusked adult warrior team capture Carter. Leader (Jeddak) Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) introduces himself, teaches him "Sark" means "jump", and mistakes "Virginia" for Carter's name. From the beginning, all aliens are believable, phenomenal; Tharks are actors on stilts.
Meanwhile, exquisitely model-lovely, richly garbed Princess Dejah (Lynn Collins - this exotic beauty is pale-skinned for real), cannot make new weapon work. The blue glowing light beam fails in front of despairing military commander (Jeddak) Tardos Mors (Ciarán Hinds). . She must accept order of marriage from conquering Sab Than. (I've lost it - cannot keep straight Tars, Tarkas, Sark, Thark, Than ...)
Back in the Thark camp, Carter cleans up fine -- a chance to strip him and show off his yummy physique. Nursemaid Sola (Samantha Morton) feeds him strange liquid that causes instant language translation, gets branded by hot iron for the crime. "There is no room for another mark .. Your next offense will be your last" warns Tars. Moola, a monstrous lump with fearsome gaping toothy maw, yawns and falls asleep, follows savior Carter everywhere.