The movie "John Carter" is loosely based on "A Princess of Mars" by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The movie wasn't bad. Taylor Kitsch surpassed my expectations and played a passable John Carter. The other acting was all good as well. The special effects and 3D artwork were outstanding except that the tusks on the green guys were anatomically implausible to the point of being distracting. The plot was an entertaining string of effective dramatic devices stolen from other films. If the movie were just a new product, I would have called it an entertainment success.
However, I was disappointed because John Carter was changed from a traditional knight-figure, a warrior of impeachable courage, honor and integrity, into a reluctant hero, contemptuous of duty and honor, tortured by a tragic past, driven by greed and selfishness. Dejah Thoris was changed (predictably) from a spunky, incomparably beautiful princess in distress to a super-sword-wielding super-scientist who really doesn't need a man. I say "predictably" because there is some kind of law in California that you can't make movies any more where the male lead demonstrates more of the traditional masculine virtues than the female lead does.
Beyond that I was disappointed that the story wasn't the story that Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote. Why would a screen-play writer reach for his library of random cool stuff from other movies when he has in his hands a license to use a great story by one of the greatest story tellers of all time? You don't need to spice up an Edgar Rice Burroughs story with stolen dramatic action, because ERB was the master of dramatic action.
I don't think it would be too much of a spoiler if I illustrate my point from an early scene of the movie. Burroughs begins A Primcess of Mars with a neat little Western short story. The movie screen play throws away Burroughs's story and replaces with a mishmash of Clint Eastwood westerns. The scene opens in a trading post like a scene from The Outlaw Jose Wales with the same three characters present that were in the Eastwood film. It is obvious immediately that John Carter is going to get into a fight with the two men in the corner like Wales did in the Clint Eastwood movie.
The shopkeeper refuses to sell Carter anything because Carter is behind on his tab like the prospector in Pale Rider, and Carter unsuccessfully tries to come across like the mysteriously menacing Man With No Name (a canonical Eastwood character). Then the guys in the corner attack Carter for no apparent reason --except maybe that they are outraged Eastwood fans who can't take his ham-handed mimicry. Subsequent events are stolen from Quigly Down Under, The Good the Bad and the Ugly, and another western that I can't remember (anyone remember a movie where a cavalry officer forces a retired scout to work for him?).
Now, if you are going to steal from movies, you could do a lot worse than the ones I name above. I fully condone stealing from Clint Eastwood westerns. But ... when you have in your greedy little hands a license to steal the WHOLE FREAKING STORY from a genius like Burroughs, why in the world are you stealing random bits from random movies and stringing them haphazardly together in a senseless tumble?
And it was pretty senseless in places. Jose Wales had a bounty on his head so the guys in the trading post had a reason to go after him. The prospector in Pale Rider was occupying land that some rich guy wanted and the toughs were paid to drive him off. In the movie, John Carter, there is no motivation for the attack.
Then after these two random strangers attack Carter and Carter beats them down, he draws a gun on the nice shopkeeper who had done nothing but kindly tell him to go home --essentially forgiving his debt if he will give up a hopeless quest. So Carter sticks him up at gun point for beans and other supplies THEN shows him that he found a little gold medallion or something so SURPRISE he had the means to pay off his tab the whole time and the entire scene was for nothing.
So, worth seeing if you aren't picky about story quality and you haven't read A Princess of Mars or you aren't expecting to see A Princess of Mars in the movie.
UPDATE: Doh! I woke up this morning realizing that I had given the wrong name for the Burroughs book. I suffer great fan shamedom for the lapse. It is corrected now.