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observation notes: Princess of Mars

The Asylum's tie-in to the biggest money-maker of all time, Avatar, is based on the same root source, John Carter of Mars, by Tarzan-creator Edgar Rice Burroughs. The story here concerns an American soldier (Antonio Sabato Jr., "Earth 2," "The Bold and the Beautiful") who finds himself transported via ground-breaking technology to the Red Planet (Mars, j.i.c.), where he lands right smack in the middle of a skirmish between clashing alien races, including the still-hot Traci Lords (Cry Baby, Dragstrip Girl) as the titular princess.

As John Carter, Sabato plays the role with his usual approachable man-beauty and affable charm. One might think given the chain of events he witnesses, he'd be a little more freaked, but the consummate-soldier, he rolls with the punches with easy believability. 

Traci Lords is fierce and cold - appropriately Martian - but with an emotional core that, like everything else alive in the universe, is only longing for love. The is the best I've seen Ms. Lords in a long time, if ever. She's perfect for the role of a intimidatingly-beautiful and equally-powerful regent, a kind of Gwyneth Paltrow with balls and actual sex appeal (no offense, Coldplay). Rounding out the cast is Chacko Vadaketh as the baller and viciously ruthless nemesis of John Carter, and Matt Lasky, who although he never see his face for makeup, is the most human character in the film. Worth noting that John Carter of Mars is itself being made into a movie for release next year; Lasky will also appear in that film. No doubt his work here gave him a leg up in the audition. Tomas Boykin of Winchester House also makes a brief appearance as the officer who introduces ASj to the Avatar-esque program.

After watching this, Battle of Los Angeles, Winchester House and Evil Eyes all in the span of a month or so, I'm pretty high on writer/director/editor/cinematographer Mark Atkins right now. For my money, there isn't a better military-action direction at The Asylum, and as far as cinematography goes, this guy makes everything beautiful, even - especially - that which inherently is not. And this, Princess of Mars, is one of the best-looking Asylum films I've ever seen. A good eye is everything in filmmaking, and Mark Atkins has two. 

The FX are amazing by Asylum standards. The spacecraft, the creatures, aliens and interstellar skyscapes are all standouts, but the real technical winner for me is the slightly-sepia filter through which Atkins shot the Mars scenes; against the craggy desert landscape it creates the perfect foreign-yet-familiar environment. Kudos to the art direction, production design, costume and make-up departments as well, all of whom contribute to making this a visually arresting production and, in my estimation, one of the most - if not the most - lavish and impressive Asylum productions to date. This is not at all your average DtV sci-fi flick; it's an intelligent and inventive thriller, and mark Atkins best script to date (keeping in mind I've yet to work through his dragon epics).

And it's the god's honest truth that I enjoyed it more than Avatar, though that comes with the caveat that I never liked James Cameron after T2. Take from it what you will, but see this movie.

1 comment:

  1. "Traci Lords as the titular princess"

    Oh, that's... not good.

    "And it's the god's honest truth that I enjoyed it more than Avatar, though that comes with the caveat that I never liked James Cameron after T2."

    Same here, altho True Lies was all right.