Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novel “A Princess of Mars” (1912) is a steampunk sword-and-sandal masterpiece. It’s the classic tale of John Carter, a Confederate soldier who astral-projects himself to Mars, becomes a superhero, and hooks up with the hottest babe in the multiverse. It’s the ultimate in juvenile escapist fantasy. At age 13 I read a musty 300+ page first edition in one sitting. I may have given myself a bladder infection in the process, but it was totally worth it.
For the past century this pulp masterwork has been the elusive Holy Grail of film adaptations. Countless filmmakers, including Looney Tunes animator Bob Clampett, famed stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen (Jason and the Argonauts), and Jon Favreau (Elf) have made several attempts at filming a “Princess of Mars” movie and failed miserably. But in 2012, with the (disastrous) release of John Carter, Pixar vet Andrew Stanton (Wall-E) and screenwriter Michael Chabon (Wonder Boys, “The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay”) were the first to bring Burrough’s interstellar adventure to the big screen. Or were they?
In 2009, The Asylum, purveyors of such notorious bargain basement “mockbusters” as Transmorphers and Snakes on a Train, released Princess of Mars. This is a rare instance where an Asylum rip-off came out years before its big budget counterpart. But more importantly – and it disgusts me to my core to write this – this means that The Asylum achieved what Clampett, Harryhausen, and many of the greatest filmmakers in history could not. The Asylum successfullyfilmed one of the most eagerly anticipated film adaptations in history. Please excuse me while I wipe the vomit from my mouth.