Tuesday, March 13, 2012

John Carter Review

Kind of looks like one movie saga that started in 1977
The previews for John Carter have been accused of amongst other things, being highly unoriginal in both theme and aesthetic. Part of the reason is because the 1917 book that it is based on called A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burrows (who also created Tarzan) already has had a lot of influence on the creators of Star Wars, Avatar, and a slew of other sci-fi / fantasy projects throughout the years, as well as many authors like Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, and even Carl Sagan. This fact also prompts another concern: is this movie even necessary at this point in time? Probably not, but it is quite a fun ride.

I really did not know what to expect after the somewhat uninspiring trailers. I also did not want to peek at other critics' responses until after viewing this film.After writing the following review, I have a very differing opinion than other critics. There is a lot here that had me pleasantly surprised. For one, I enjoyed seeing such a huge character arc from the titular character. When we meet John Carter, we don't really have much reason to like him because he doesn't give a damn about anyone or any cause. We don't even see why he is bitter until around the final act. Despite some huge craters in logic and science, there are a few things that ring true about the hero. In a way, John Carter is more believable as an action hero than the vast majority we are asked to believe. Why? Because this Civil War vet is obviously out of his mind, fearless, and ready to throw-down with anyone and any thing right from the get-go. Give this guy some extraordinary super-human abilities and he can actually use it right away, where as most would still carry over their mortal fear. It was a welcome change from the mopey teenager super hero role we've been getting fed or even the current emotionally balanced Bruce Wayne archetype. I must also say that a lot hinges on the strength of the ending of this story and I found the conclusion to be very satisfying.

Lynn Collins as Princess Dejah

The acting is mostly very good. Taylor Kitsch is pretty decent, but maybe at times lacks some charisma to play a hero that has to carry a potential franchise. I'm going to say that some of that may be  part of how the character arc is written and not really the actor's fault. If you go by the original title: A Princess of Mars, the title character in this case (Dejah Thoris) is obviously equally important to this story. The relatively unknown Lynn Collins will soon become very popular, I think. Not only is she quite a beautiful sight to behold, but she is an acting powerhouse. She almost feels overqualified for the job sometimes, yet other times, she makes the whole story work when it probably wouldn't have otherwise.Willem Dafoe performance captured as Tars Tarkas is also very good. The one character / performance that seemed melodramatic and out of place is Sab Than, played by Dominic West. I found this character kind of corny and prefer a bit more motivated villain.

This is a first-time live-action directorial debut from Andrew Stanton (Wall-E) and I think he does a pretty decent job. Like I said, I found this movie highly enjoyable. It is period, fantasy, and sci-fi. It was meant to be a ride for your imagination and the movie does that, even if it doesn't carry a lot of visual originality. Still, there is character development here that George Lucas somehow forgot to write about by the time he got to the Star Wars prequels. This is what makes a story breathe! The score feels like kind of a throwback to a simpler time, which seems to fit pretty well.

The 3D version is obviously done in post, so it isn't quite as natural as if it were naively shot that way. It is still pretty decent and makes the ride a little more fun if you already are partial to 3D. It is not good enough to win over someone who doesn't like 3D in the first place.

Overall: 8 (out of 10)

Here's another pic of Collins, just because

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