The Key Question About Disney’s ‘John Carter’ Movie

I’m all for big, expansive science fiction movies that put humans on other planets, and there’s a lot of interesting stuff in Meredith Woerner’s piece on Wall-E director Andrew Stanton’s hugely ambitious adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars, now titled John Carter. But there’s one question that her set visit doesn’t answer. Is John Carter going to be a former Confederate soldier like he is in Burroughs’ original?

The Disney summary of the plot suggests he’s mustered out of an unnamed military conflict, and I wonder if they just might leave it vague. There’s obviously a strong connection between the Civil War and Westerns — the frontier gives folks a chance to refight lost wars. And while it could be convenient, from a plot perspective, to explain that a human who has ended up on a strange planet would be good at organizing an alien insurgency because he developed his skills in a specific, analogous conflict. But it’s probably better to make it almost any other conflict than the Civil War. The Confederacy doesn’t get retroactive points just because fighting in it helps someone achieve justice for another species down the road.