Friday, March 16, 2012
JOHN CARTER (JOHN CARTER ON MARS) (A PRINCESS OF MARS) (2012)
Directed by Andrew Stanton
Taylor Kitsch - John Carter
Lynn Collins - Dejah Thoris
Willem Dafoe- Tars Tarkas (voice)
Transplanted to Mars, a Civil War vet discovers a lush planet inhabited by 12-foot tall aliens. Finding himself a prisoner of these creatures, he escapes, only to encounter a princess who is in desperate need of a savior.
It was a Saturday afternoon, and I'm just getting over a stomach bug that made me kinda surly for most of the week (sorry JeNee). JeNee and I are wondering what to watch, as we both love movies. JeNee is into comedies a lot more than I am, as I tend to find most of the jokes fall flat in most of the more recent ones. And those that read my blog know that I like horror films, which JeNee has started watching more of recently. So there was no horror films that opened up this past weekend, except for Silent House, which neither of us wanted to see. So I told JeNee that if she wanted to, we would see the Friends With Kids, which turns out didn't open here. Then JeNee said we should see John Carter instead. I relented, quite easily even though the early buzz for the film has been bad and the trailers for it made it look, well, like shit. So we sit down for the start of the film (in 3D no less) and are bombarded by trailers for upcoming movies in 3D. Prometheus in 3D made my jaw drop (just seeing Giger's work in that format is mind boggling) and Avengers in 3D is a no brainer and looks simply amazing in the format. After about 15 minutes of trailers John Carter starts.
I admit that the name Taylor Kitsch is only one I heard of in passing, and most recently only in a really underwhelming spin-off of a movie franchise about mutants in which the character he played was completely wrong. Well the good thing is that Kitsch actually fits the role of John Carter here quite well. He does a fairly decent job of man misplaced that has to learn how to walk (literally) again and understand a brand new environment from scratch. There's also a certain wonder Kitsch emotes as Carter at his new setting and the wonders it brings. Lynn Collins, who plays Dejah Thoris, is quite good in this as a princess trying to solve two problems at the same time. Collins brings an aire of dignity to the role, which is what was needed as she is playing royalty. Yet here's something her character does that few do in movies like this, she able to show her weaknesses without being tied down by them. The Tharks are filled out with the voices of well known actors and actresses. The Thark chief Tars Tarkas, is voiced by (one of my favorite actors) Willem Dafoe. He voices the leader of the Tharks and lends that character a sadness for what he has to do while leading his people and also being able to see a way out of his problems if he can get the help of John Carter.
So what does the film do wrong? To be blunt, the first fifteen minutes is a jumbled mess that jumps around. From a battle from the two main clans on Mars that ends abruptly, to showing a young Edgar Rice Borroughs receiving a letter telling him that his uncle John Carter is dead. So many characters and faces are flashed through this short amount of time that you get lost through all of it. It's only when Borroughs sits down and is told of Carters last will does the pacing of the film becomes stable. The movie could have done without the first fifteen minutes and still not have lost anything. So what does John Carter do right then? Almost everything else. From the story choices made, the main one being John Carter letting go of his past that has haunted and held him down for so long. When we're introduced to Carter finally he is a man that is basically a shell that only wants money and doesn't care for anyone else, just money. The first real glimpse we get of the man he will become is when he goes to help out his jailer after being shot. That man is still hidden through most of the film until the third act when Carter has to make a decision. To either run or fight. Yet the one thing that held him back the most was his sorrow and refusal to truly live again until he realizes that he fell in love and didn't recognize it until it was almost to late. Oh, and did I mention that there's a romance plotline in the film that helps the story, and is in fact integral to the overall plot. And the female interest isn't a girly girl that is afraid of everything. Dejah Thoris in fact wants to be the first one in a fight whenever possible and in fact relishes it. She also holds her own against John Carter whether it be in words or action, and is much more intelligent than her male counterpart. This was a nice breath of fresh air in the sci-fi genre in recent years.
I really should mention that the film is beautiful to look at and is wonderfully shot. Unlike recent action movies where different shots are used every three seconds when something is happening on screen, this film lingers on the action and isn't afraid to stay with a single shot. This I think is due to director Andrew Stanton's background in animation at Pixar. He understands that you can still create motion while filming action scenes if you move the camera around rather than to go to a altogether different shots to show the events. This makes the film have a much more fluid feel to it. It's a throwback to the way movies were shot in the 80's. In fact the whole movie is reminiscent of those films. From the storytelling to the pacing. The movie takes it's time to explain the universe and the characters that inhabit it. Which yes, makes the film slow down some, but it draws you in as the world is more understandable due to this and makes you care about what happens. Which is also why I think there is so much backlash to this film as well. Audiences now expect something to happen every five to six minutes. They can not stay still if something doesn't go boom or explodes in quick succession. Well that, and the film was just marketed so poorly as the trailers made it look like a completely different movie than what was actually on screen once the film started. I'll admit that from the trailers I could have passed on it and not really miss it. Which I'm happy to say didn't happen. As this was actually a fun, enjoyable film that I would love to see a sequel to, as I really want to see what happens after the movie ends. Oh, and JeNee, you can have Woola only if I can get a saddle and ride him!
The slaughter of the militant Tharks by John Carter. It was like he was a angle of death he killed so many.
It's not a spoken line, but an action that entails someone slapping someone in the back of the head.
The film has the distinction of being in "Development Hell" the longest at 79 years.
"A Princess of Mars" was originally published as "Under the Moons of Mars" by Norman Bean, the pseudonym of Edgar Rice Burroughs, in The All-Story pulp magazine.
Disney was so disappointed with John Carter's opening weekend that they started pulling the film from theaters the Monday after it opened.
Edgar Rice Burroughs other famous literature creation is Tarzan.