My bus got me home for 7 and I ust finished supper. This might be shorter than I intended. Asides like this and the next won’t help either.
I’ve got a lot of ideas this week and a half finished blog about Tim and the crocodiles, but talking about John Carter seems more timely.
It was, apparently, a box office disaster. Underservingly so. This was a solid, fun, entertaining action/sci-fi flick. I can heartily recommend it. It isn’t without its flaws, but they are not huge.
John Carter is the newest Disney movie. Directed by Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo and Wall-E) although this is a far different beast. It is filled with actors you probably don’t know – although the supporting cast is an incredibly solid mix of Dominic West (The Wire – Det. McNulty), Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes – Moriarty) and James Purefoy (Rome – Mark Antony). The trailer looked like a very generic mess. And now it didn’t do well at the box office. This movie needs saving.
John Carter is a former calvaryman from Virginia. As he searches for a rumoured gold mine and outruns a posse, he is transported across space to the planet Barsoom. But this isn’t a made up planet – it is the one we can see in our night sky. The red planet – Mars. Waterless, filled with giant plains and looming canyons, but with less gravity. John Carter finds that a simple step turns into a leap and a single blow of his first can cave in a chest.
That’s right because Mars is populated with Martians. The martial and savage, but honorable Tharks. The human looking resident of the two cities in an ongoing civil war – Helium and Zodonga. The mysterious Therns. And a variety of both vicious and loyal beasts.
Carter is quickly embroiled in the civil war. He befriends the Tharks and involves them as well. The Therns seem to be manipulating events from the sidelines. But the core plot is about Carter fighting for the love of the Martian princess of Helium – Dejah Thoris.
Intriguing, if a bit conventional, plot – check! Interesting characters? Check – especially Dejah Thoris and the Thark Jeddak (general/leader) Tars Tarkas. Cool effects? Yes. Exciting action? Yes – including fight scenes, chases, and environmental hazards. An emotional through line? Yep.
It is rated PG although there are some scenes of combat that might be intense for younger kids – a villainous Thark is beheaded and a vicious white ape is disemboweled. (I thought the later was a bit gratuitous in a PG movie, but if the kids are fine with the Rancor’s death this isn’t far different.) It won’t insult an adult’s intelligence to watch it.
Plus the movie is just fun. Fun. Fun. Fun. It has a brave, solitary hero. A brave, intelligent, beautiful martian princess. A brave alien leader – Tars Tarkas. It isn’t a funny movie, but it doesn’t lack wit.
Here are my quibbles;
- John Carter speaks with a gravelly “Batman” voice.
- The sci-fi aspects – the ravaging city of Zodonga – the planes that fly through the air – the power of the ninth ray – not enough time is spent on these for my sci-fi bred interest. (YMMV)
- Dejah Thoris may be too beautiful. Her character is complex with a number of layers, but the camera lingers on her gorgeous eyes. (It doesn’t ignore her stunning legs either!)
- It has a ‘princess must marry to save her people instead of for love – oh the injustice!’ subplot. This is just one of those plots that annoys me – like a carebear stare ending.
- The villains are played by two awesome actors who get almost nothing to do. That made me sad. Sure they get to be villainous, but not – not interesting enough.
- 3D does the movie no favours. It is filled with vistas of Mars that are all blurry because they are in the foreground of the 3D shot. It was really annoying. See this in two-D if you can. (I spent $19 on an Imax ticket when only 5% of the huge screen was in focus at a time.)
None of these are a reason not to see the film. If you can’t see it, rent it or buy it, VOD it or PVR it. Figure out how to go watch it.
This movie owes a lot to Star Wars. You’ll see touches of it here and there. But, it is trying to do the same thing as Star Wars – have fun, entertain and thrill. In many ways it succeeds. It is no Star Wars, but it aspires to be. That is pretty nifty.