I had read a little about the movie before going in and knew the basic premise of a Civil War veteran who is transported to Mars and fights in a war there and that it was based on a series of books by Edgar Rice Burroughs (who also wrote Tarzan). My husband knew very little background on the story line. We both enjoyed the movie. As we were waiting for the movie to start, I read a brief background of the story and the cast of characters, and I will say that it helped to have a little bit of background on the story line.
The beginning of the film was a little confusing as they jumped from Mars (Barsoom as called by the natives) to two different time periods on Earth (plus obvious flashbacks). After that, it settled into action on Barsoom and the timeline became more straightforward. By the conclusion of the film, the timeline jumps were now able to be understood. One thing that I thought was ingenious of the film was that the author of the book was a character, John Carter's nephew who has always been fascinated with his stories.
Here's a 10 minute preview clip.
I definitely saw the influences that this book has had on modern science fiction, especially Avatar. Now I have an idea where the notion of Martians as green men came from (although these were tall green Martians instead of little green Martians). There were even common elements to Superman and Star Wars. Having not read the books, I wonder how much was adaptations based on more modern ideas of Science Fiction vs. based on the book description.
I have never read the book so I can't really compare how things may have changed between the book and the movie. After seeing the movie, I am interested in reading the original books (there are several books in the Barsoom series). When we got home, I looked for the book and was glad to see that A Princess of Mars is available for FREE in the Kindle format. I have only read the first few pages, so I can't draw many comparisons yet between the book and the film.
We both enjoyed the movie and are glad that we went to see it. The 3D was well done especially since I was disappointed with the quality of the last two 3D movies I had seen. However, I don't think that you would lose anything seeing the movie in 2D.
Although John Carter is rated PG-13, my husband and I did not really think it deserved a PG-13 rating. There is a decent amount of violence, but I did not feel it was significantly more than Star Wars: The Phantom Menace which we recently took our 6 year old to see. She has also seen the Harry Potter films through Goblet of Fire (through the winning of the tri-wizard cup) and they did not disturb her. While I would not have a problem with her seeing the movie from a ratings standpoint, I don't feel that my daughter (age 6) would enjoy the movie. As much as my husband and I like science fiction, she had trouble sitting through Phantom Menace this year so I don't think she would be interested in John Carter.
My husband's biggest disappointment was that there was not a preview for The Avengers movie which Walt Disney Studios is releasing on May 4, 2012. We saw a screening which did not have any previews with it, so there may be an Avengers trailer in theaters.
If you like Science-Fiction movies, I recommend this movie as a date night or for children maybe age 10 and over. The 3D was well done, although I can't say I would have to see it in 3D.
Disclaimer: I was provided with 2 passes to an advance screening of John Carter so that I could write this review. Images and video clips were provided by Walt Disney Studios for use in promoting this film. All opinions are 100% mine and my husband's.