Friday, April 20, 2012


Riva/Harlequin Presents Extra author Heidi Rice explains why the film they've dubbed the Greatest Flop Ever Made actually has a lot to recommend it - and we're not just talking about Taylor Kitsch's biceps here, folks.

Based on a series of books by Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Carter is actually the movie from which all other sci-fi descends. The original stories that Burroughs wrote are the genesis of Steam Punk: A man cast adrift in another world where he has to save the day, an evil empire trying to subjugate a whole planetary system... Sound familiar? That's right, everything from Avatar to Star Wars have ripped off little bits and pieces, so when Disney decided to throw away a staggering $300million plus on this movie they must have thought they were on to a winner... Well, quite apart from the fact that it's pretty impossible to make a profit on a movie that cost that much, they also had the problem that when today's audiences saw it instead of thinking 'Wow, this is where it all began' they thought: 'Wait a minute, haven't I seem that somewhere before?' Oops!

But let's forget about what a gargantuan flop this has turned out to be now, and instead concentrate on little old me and my two boys going to see it on Sunday afternoon at London's IMAX cinema (because this blog is actually all about me!). And I have to admit we had a ball. Unfortunately the 3D projector had broken down so we didn't see it all in eye-popping dimensions, but frankly it was quite action-packed enough without having things lobbed at you from outer space. But what I enjoyed most about this movie (apart from Taylor Kitsch's extremely fit body) was the achingly romantic drama  behind all those very special effects.

This is after all a story of a man, a Civil War survivor, who has been wrenched away from everything that matters in his life. His wife and son have been cruelly murdered and he's living a dissolute and angry existence in the Old West when a strange medallion found in a cave full of gold whisks him away to another world. And I mean a whole 'nother world. He's on Mars folks, or rather Barsoom, where Dominic West in Orange Face (supported by some rather nasty shape-shifting superior beings) is busy decimating everyone who stands in his way. Among them is Lynn Collins's princess who is about to be forced to marry West when she runs off and encounters, yup you've guessed it, the gorgeous Taylor who not only doesn't have an Orange face but doesn't have many clothes either (cue delicious biceps) because he's been taken prisoner by a race of primitive creatures who are extremely impressed by his ability to jump great distances (something to do with Martian gravity, I think!!).

Anyway, to cut a rather long and involved story extremely short, Carter and the Princess don't like each other at first, but forced to trek across Mars's desert landscape together to find the source of Carter's medallion which will allow him to return to Earth, they do eventually fall in love. It's a predictable but beautifully done story with just the right mixture of action, spectacle, kissy scenes and big emotional moments to please both a mum and her two teenage sons.

And whenever following all those weird Martian names gets a bit too much, or the effects get a bit exhausting, it has some really heartfelt drama to fall back on. Especially in that pivotal moment when Carter is thrown back in time and space to the Old West against his will...

So OK, maybe it is the biggest flop ever made, but I still enjoyed it. And I would definitely recommend it as all-round family entertainment.

Heidi's latest book The Good, the Bad and the Wild is out now as a Riva in the UK and will be out in the US in July. The sister story Cupcakes and Killer Heels is also out in the US as a Harlequin Presents Extra. You can find out more about Heidi's books on her website, or come have a natter with her on her blog or on Twitter (@HeidiRomRice) or Facebook.


  1. I haven't seen John Carter yet, it's not really my kind of movie, but I do love Taylor Kitsch so I'll probably check it out at some point just for him. His TV series Friday Night Lights was genius, anyone with a love for bad boys with a heart of gold needs to see Taylor in that show.

  2. See, now I've never seen Friday Night Lights and you've just given me something else I've got to check out!! I have to admit John Carter was a little long but I did come out of the cinema thoroughly entertained. Felt I'd totally got my money's worth!

  3. I loved your commentary! I´m a huge science fiction fan myself and I´m terribly biased. I loved the romance too and it´s a bit tricky for me to find the right balance. I loved both actors and the final scene. Go and check the movie...I want a sequel!

  4. Cheers doike... I think this will be one of those movies that becomes a cult favourite, cos it's really got a lot to offer behind all the hype!