Princess of Mars (Review)

Princess of Mars

Directed and written by Mark Atkins

The Asylum are the masters of the Mockbusters, the films released on DVD the same day that films with similar titles open in the theater. We got Transmorphers, The Terminators, and Dragon. Thanks to the magic of the public domain, the first couple of Barsoom books are copyright free in the USA, thus allowing Asylum to get away with this cash in. Surprisingly, this is not a mockbuster of John Carter of Mars, the upcoming Pixar film due out in 2012, but is a mockbuster for Avatar, complete with mentioning Avatar on the DVD cover.

Now, a few of you will not be that familiar with the story of the Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter books. A brief explaination: John Carter is a Virginian and former Confederate soldier who is wandering around the West and goes in a cave, and ends up on Mars, called Barsoom by the natives. He’s captured by Green Martians, who are 14 foot tall green Martians with tusks and four arms, who admire his great strength and hopping ability (a gift from his Earth muscles on the lighter gravity of Mars) and train him up to be a warrior. They also capture some Red Martians, who are human-like except for their red skin. Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, is the main captive, and Carter falls for her and soon they are escaping and lots of fights happen. And everyone on Mars is naked all the time. Guess which part is not in the film! Most of it, actually.

Barsoom – planet of substandard emissions standards

So here at TarsTarkas.NET we have a vested interest in Princess of Mars because there is a dude named Tars Tarkas in it. He’s played by Matt Lasky, who has also left comments on the blog, so we got that going for us.

But the question is…is Princess of Mars a good film? Ha! It’s not the worst thing Asylum has churned out, but it is far from a masterpiece. It isn’t awful, but parts make absolutely no sense. I would have much preferred that they just went with an original story, but, whatever. I can say it is the best Barsoom movie ever, because it is the only Barsoom movie! Yet. I will not rag on some of the CGI or costumes (except when they get really bad…) because at TarsTarkas.NET, we forgive small budgets. We don’t forgive bad writing, so expect that to get pointed out.

Enough jibber-jabber, let’s do this thing, Martian style!

John Carter (Antonio Sabato Jr.) – John Carter is a Marine sniper who originally was from Virginia but gets sent to Mars 216 thanks to the military doing….something….for some reason….never explained. So, yeah, he’s on Mars 216, hopping around, and kicking butt and naming names.
Dejah Thoris (Traci Lords) – Dejah Thoris is the Princess of Mars and Princess of Helium. But since the natives call Mars 216 Barsoom, shouldn’t she be the Princess of Barsoom? Or the Princess of Mars 216? Questions, questions. Traci Lords is not the raven-haired, red skinned Dejah Thoris of the novels, nor does she have the tough, proud warrior independent spirit, instead protraying Dejah Thoris as a more somber, introspective princess.
Tars Tarkas (Matt Lasky) – Tars Tarkas is a Green Martian warrior (Green Martians are Tharks) and befriends John Carter of Mars. Tars Tarkas eventually takes over the Thark clan, because Tars Tarkas rules. The Tars Tarkas costume starts deteriorating as the film progresses, so keep an eye out for that. The Green Martian heads look like artichokes or asparagus spears or something.
Sarka (Chacko Vadaketh) – Sarka betrays John Carter in Afghanistan and is partially responsible for Carter being sent to Mars 216.
Sab Than (It is a mystery!) – Who is the mysterious warrior Sab Than, who is sort of the Princess’s bodyguard, but not really?
Tal Hajus (Mitchell Gordon) – The fat Jabba mofo who runs the Tharks and is totally evil. He also hates women with eyes. Yeah. He gets sliced and diced.
Sola (Noelle Perris) – Sola in this film is just a random Green Martian lady who is friends with Tars Tarkas. She does some pivotal rescuing.

In Afghanistan, John Carter is a US special forces Marine sniper who acts alone and takes down poppy growers (poppies are made into heroin for those of you who aren’t hip to the origins of drugs.) John Carter’s contact Sarka is ratted out, so John Carter of Afghanistan has to save him, but its a trap and he gets shot the frak up. Awakening on a military hospital, where he’s told he will die during the night, but they will reconstruct him thanks to a 16GB flash drive.


They are also sending him to Mars 216, which orbits Alpha Centauri and is the fourth planet there as well.


Oh, wait, Avatar! Duh. That’s why we got this weird way he’s getting his ass to Mars 216. Sure, it doesn’t explain the 16GB Flash drive (and they never will) or how he actually gets to Mars 216 despite some special effects that seem to indicate they used technology from the TV show Sliders.

Princess Slave Leia Dejah Thoris and A Masked Dude named Sab Than decide whether to kill the barely conscious unarmed John Carter of Mars 216, and she says not to. Then they get on their heavily polluting flying ship and probably help smog up the atmosphere of Mars 216 some more as they fly off, leaving the heavily tattooed and nearly naked John Carter.

Look Out! Jerry O’Connell and Gimli are headed the other way!

Carter looks around…those rocks! Will Captain Kirk be fighting a Gorn anytime soon? Also John Carter can hop big distances due to his Earth muscles being overpowered for Mars 216’s lighter gravity.

Carter stumbles across an egg clutch, then some Tharks appear and one tosses a spear at him, which misses and hits an egg. We get to see the green fetus as the Thark yanks out the spear. The other Green Martians (and their rides) show up, and a gibberish-speaking Tars Tarkas takes John Carter away.

Kirk’s fighting a Gorn up there…then they made out!

John Carter is made to jump in front of their fat, Jabba-looking leader Tal Hajus. The Tharks laugh when Carter tosses one of their kin into a wall after not wanting to jump anymore. Carter then has a drink of warm Martian backsweat. Sweet!

John Carter and Tars Tarkas bond by killing a bunch of giant ant monsters thanks to the power of guns. These monsters are called Spiderlings despite the fact that they are ants, and the next time we see them they will be flying ants. John Carter is given a white gooey food by Sola. We learn the goo comes from some squeezed giant maggots, soooo…YUMMY!

John Carter gets all anti-bug eating all of a sudden, he even refuses other bug food! Elitist! But he is forced to eat bugs by the sword. The bug makes him talk like a Visitor from V, and thus acts like the Babelfish and now everyone is speaking perfect English. We get formal introductions of Tars Tarkas and Sola.

Mr. Jalapeno Fetus….on a stick

John Carter gets some clothes from the Martian dude he killed earlier, but by then the Green Martians are attacking something new. They are shooting at the princess’s flying car, which now that we get a better look at it it looks very much like Jabba’s sail barge. This entire movie’s art department is ganked from the Tatooine portion of Return of the Jedi! If the freaking Ewoks show up and Admiral Akbar declares that there is a trap…I’m not outta here, but I should be…

The flying ship gets shot down and the Tharks ride their Thoats out to get it, but as John Carter of Mars 216 can hop super good he gets there first and sees Princess Dejah Thoris escape on a flyer, which acts just like a Speeder Bike from Endor. The masked Sab Than then shoots the other people on the ship so he can get on the other escape flyer. He flies off, and John Carter hops on the ship and talks to the dying people. The dying guy agrees to tell John Carter how he got his ass to Mars 216. John Carter hops them off of the ship, and the dying guy says he is Kantos Kan (!!! for those of you who know the actual story) and he is there to replace the crew at the Royal Air Pumping Station. He gives the code for the Air Pump, and then dies before he explains anything to John Carter. It looks like Kantos Kan’t.

Dejah Thoris managed to crash her speeder into the ground (no trees on Mars 216 and women still can’t drive! – Just kidding…I think there is a tree somewhere on Mars 216…) John Carter punches her out because he’s the hero! Go team wifebeater!

Tosk from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine?!?

Now she’s his prisoner. See, she shouldn’t have worn that Slave Leia costume when encountering dudes who grew up fetishizing it. John Carter gets promoted to Jeddak for this, because that’s cool and capturing one woman automatically makes you a general. John Carter then gets pee thrown on him by Dejah Thoris.


Locker room hazing took a tragic turn today…

They head back to Tal Hajus’s place, who will probably kill her. Dejah Thoris explains some of the politics of Mars 216 and how some dudes want to kill the greens, but not all of the dudes. Then flying spiderlings attack, most of who are blasted into green goo. There are even smaller flying spiderlings who then attack, and Dejah Thoris is rescued from her cage and the all run away.

Three SyFy Channel Originals collide in the desert

Oh, they are all days away from Tal Hajus’s place despite just being there earlier in the day. I don’t get it either. Dejah Thoris saves Tars Tarkas by knifing a spiderling on his back, and he calls her a leaf or something.

Didn’t Kirk drive his step-dad’s car off this back in Iowa?

By the time they are outside the air creation station, Tars Tarkas’s rubber mask is essentially disintegrating off of him. I guess this was filmed near the end of the movie because this is the worst it looks. There is some minor quabbling because the Green Martians do not believe that the Royal Air Pumping Station really works, they saw a FoxNews Special that said it was bunk.

They bring Dejah Thoris before Tal Hajus, and now that Tal Hajus is speaking English, things aren’t so good. In fact, things are terrible, as Tal Hajus actor Mitchell Gordon spends the entire diatribe speaking with a loud voice that is monotone in its gruffness and doesn’t emphasize the parts of the sentences he should when speaking. That is further complicated because whoever wrote the dialogue (which means I am blaming writer/director/editor Mark Atkins here) wrote Tal Hajus to have weird sentence structuring. Thus, things are really bizarre. I bet Mitchell Gordon was giving no real direction on how to give this speech and they rushed it to finish it before the makeup disintegrated. And we haven’t even mentioned the eyeless human girl slaves of Tal Hajus. My favorite part is when he says “Dejah Thoris – Horrible Princess!”

Tal Hajus hates everyone, demotes Tars Tarkas, enslaves Dejah Thoris, and sends John Carter to jail. In jail, the masked Sab Than is there, and he reveals himself to be Sarka the Afghanistan guy! What? Sarka apparently bribed his ass to Mars 216! This makes even less sense. In fact, this makes negative sense, it is actively destroying what little sense was left in the film. We are rapidly reaching film implosion!

Hi! We’re totally not Sand People!

John Carter is being forced to fight in the canyon, which means he must fight Tars Tarkas. So he kills him! Or not quite.

Jabba’s Sail Barge?!?

Meanwhile, the crazy eyeless slave girls are going to pour acid into Dejah Thoris’s eyes! Except they have no eyes, so it is taking along time as they can’t see where to pour and are aiming for her stomach or something. I am really watching a film where eyeless people are trying to pour acid into someone’s eyes. She is eventually rescued by Sola, who sneaks her outside.

Sarka is brought out to fight, but he just hops away because he didn’t expose his super-powers. Tal Hajus is knocked into the ring by John Carter, and Tars Tarkas challenges him and then kills Tal Hajus in less than ten seconds despite the awesome destructive power of Tal Hajus’s bad acting.

The crowd goes wild “Yay!”

You would think on a planet with ginormous bugs, you would want a windshield…
Pay no attention to the fact my face is falling off!

Oh, Sab Than and the Princess went to the pumping station, which is odd because Sola rescued the Princess and, uh… Just go with it! So John Carter gets on the other flyer the Martians just happened to have (two flyers, no waiting!) and gives chase. To the Royal Air Pumping Station! Sarka tells the Princess that John Carter is dead, and that he loves her. But she refuses him. They go into the station where the current worker is (earlier they said the job was for life, but…never mind.) The worker lets them in, and the station is a basement in some factory. I am having Space Mutiny flashbacks!!! Just wait until a tiny electric car drives up…

You know, they never explain why this guy hates eyes so much…

Sarka destroys the machine when Dejah Thoris won’t marry him and John Carter reveals he’s alive. Now Sarka wants to trash the backup machine, so it is fight time! We got the heroic American fighting a Muslim dude who wants to go all Jihad on Mars 216 because trashing the air machine will make him rule Mars 216 or something. Whatever, John Carter insults his math ability, and it’s swordfighting time!

Pon Farr on Mars!

The air starts to go away and all the Green Martians go sleepy-time. John Carter and Sarka hop around like Peter Pan,
then Sarka gets killed by a flying spiderling. Just like in the book.

You can lead a blind girl to acid…

The code to turn on backup air machine is rhyme Kantos Kan told John Carter. Mars 867-5309 is saved, and John Carter then slides back to Earth.

Hef Tarkas


Okay. Sure. Whatever. Back to Afghanistan. Hey, still no explanation on why they sent him to Mars 216 in the first place! John Carter tells us he’ll go back to Mars 216…some day! Maybe when that Pixar movie comes out! What a perfect time for a sequel!

Barsoom is so poor it can only afford one World Trade Center
Slave Babe Leia, expert Python programmer

So that’s the Asylum film that managed to be the first movie of the Barsoom tale after 80 years of trying. Huh. Well, it could have been much, much worse.

Rated 4/10 (I have movie files that are bigger than that flash drive, tossing like a rag doll, Pumping station pumper, Maggot milk does a body good – pass it on!)

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