Wednesday, July 11, 2018



PLOT: The original Star Wars movie is one of the most imaginative and influential movie of all time. It introduced the concept of the Force and Jedi warriors. The main characters are not iconic and known throughout the world. The plot was so good it was reused in other films in the series. The first time is always the best, however. That plot involves a quest against all odds, an epic hero and crew versus one of the great villains, and a climactic battle to save all that is good. It's a traditional sci-fi tale updated for a modern audience. It's easy to forget how it was and is a masterpiece. GRADE = A

"John Carter" is based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs book "A Princess of Mars". Given the source, the plot is very pulpy. Carter is a Civil War veteran who ends up on Mars. The planet is being torn by a civil war between a race led by a typical sci-fi villain with a super weapon versus the good people. Carter at first is captured by a primitive people who he becomes leader of once he is able to use his Superman-like strength and ability to leap tall buildings. His love interest is the princess of the good city, who of course is going to be forced to marry the villain. To complicate matters, there are some mysterious beings that are manipulating the planet for nefarious purposes. In some ways the movie is more fantasy than sci-fi. Carter is a combination of Buck Rogers, Superman, and Tarzan. He is a 1930s style hero. In fact, although the screenwriters attempted to cater to a modern audience, the plot is still very Edgar Rice Burroughs. He's not Shakespeare. GRADE = C

The strategy of the Rebel Alliance is to overthrow the Empire, but that strategy has to be put on hold and adjusted when the potential of the Death Star is revealed. At that point, the plan becomes to destroy the space station. The tactics involve an air assault using fighter and fighter-bombers. The fighters are used to lure away the enemy fighters to distract from the attempt to disable the Death Star. There is some reference to wing men, which is rare in a sci-fi movie. It's pretty simplistic, but logical. GRADE = B

Teenage boys don't need no stinking strategy and tactics. In standard sci-fi fashion, the bad guys in "John Carter" want to conquer the planet and the good guys are playing defense until they can suddenly penetrate the enemy stronghold. The supervillain could easily accomplish his plan by using his superweapon but of course he can't use it because it would end the movie too quickly. As far as tactics, the big battle is your classic sci-fi melee. Carter leads a frontal attack to initiate this chaos. Kudos to the movie for having some boarding action involving the galley-like space ships. GRADE = D

WEAPONS - The basic fire-arms used by the Rebel Alliance are blaster pistols. They fire plasma energy, but not accurately. Most Stormtroopers are armed with blaster rifles. Jedi warriors use light sabers which can deflect the plasma projectiles as well as serve as an edged weapon. For aerial combat, the rebels have X-Wing fighters that are equipped with four laser cannons and proton torpedo launchers. Their companions are the Y-Wings which are fighter-bombers armed with proton torpedoes. These are equivalent to P-51s and P-47s. The Death Star is defended by TIE (twin ion engines) fighters which are strictly fighters armed with two laser cannons. They rely on speed and quantity. They are equivalent to Me-109s. Aside from the light sabers, these weapons are standard sci-fi type air combat vehicles. The Death Star is your standard doomsday weapon, armed with its super-laser. This movie set the template for space combat and brought us the unique light saber so future sci-fi movies could think about incorporating duels. GRADE = A

I've already mentioned the super weapon in JC which allows one man to be invincible. There are a hodge-podge of other weapons. Weirdly, the primitive Tharks are the only ones with rifles. Everyone else is basically using swords. The space galleys have some type of cannons. Burroughs had a great imagination, but not when it came to weapons. GRADE = D

SPECIAL EFFECTS - The movie won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects. That was an easy call as the special effects were revolutionary. To see it in a theater was to walk into the future of sci-fi movies. Even today, the effects hold up, although they have been surpassed. Relatively speaking they were the best ever. GRADE = A+

Most of the effects budget in JC was spent on the creatures, specifically the Tharks. They are amazing and remind of the Na'vi from "Avatar". The rest of the effects are standard. The galleys are well-rendered and cool in their archaic nature. GRADE = B

A match between a huge blockbuster and a box office bomb. A match between a revolutionary movie that had tremendous influence on future sci-fi war movies and a movie based on a 1912 novel. Plus throw in that "Star Wars" is more of a war movie. This was never a fair fight.



  1. Man how I loved Star Wars as a kid. I remember standing in a long line waiting to get in with my family. It was huge. I don't think people not born then realize how big it was. My one complaint was the dogfighting. It seemed they were always so close to each other. You would thing with lasers, the x-wings and TIE fighters would have more distance between them. Yeah it's a nitpick, I know. I thing they didn't take the weapons into account when making those scenes and kept the ships too close together like they were WWII fighters.

    1. Nice input. Block busters are routine every summer since, but "Star Wars" and "Jaws" changed the movie business. It's amazing how both have held up to all the wannabes. I agree about the dogfights, but compared to other movies that have similar scenes, it's fairly realistic. You don't see wingmen very often. I can see why the Imperial fighters wanted to get in close. They probably shot like their Stormtrooper brethren.


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