Talk about the sleeper hit. Most people I’ve spoken to about ‘John Carter’ have asked the “Who’s He?”. Many think its Dan Carter’s brother but once you look at the background to this science fiction saga from Edgar Rice Burroughs the man who brought us Tarzan you start to see that we’ve been missing a hero movie with more backstory than a chemical lab accident.
The beauty of this story is that its roots are based back well before the computer was invented, before CGI or even space travel was a possibility. This creates a story that is written without the glitz and glamour of Hollywood.
Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950) wrote a series of books between 1912 and 1948 that were built around the characters of Barsoom (Mars) and the battles, loves and on quests of the tribes of this land. With Disney’s latest release we are transported from the 1800s of the American West to a land where battles are fought and won through violence and the occasional help of loftier beings.
‘John Carter’ for me is a revelation of the imaginations of man. Not only from the perspective of how Director Andrew Stanton interpreted the original story but also to see how Edgar Rice Burroughs alongside writers like HG Wells and Jules Verne were able to imagine a world beyond their experience.
One of the key things I liked is how the ‘flying machines’ were created in the movie. There is an element of steam-punk with the sense of the mechanical and gears that Burroughs would have been familiar with but combined into this paradigm is the mystery of what look like solar powered wings that give the ability of flight.
Like Brad Bird before him, Andrew Stanton has stepped out of the animation ring where his writing and directing successes have worked magic into classics like Finding Nemo, WALL-E and Monster’s Inc to give us a stunning live action movie with the added experience of a 3D rendering of Mars, its worlds and inhabitants.
I would have to say while i enjoyed the movie on the whole, technically it had some aspects that made me want to scream. Focus issues in some scenes and occasionally the meeting of the real world and CGI world looked un-natural. But this would be a minor concern in the grand scheme, as the rest of the movie quickly took you away from that moment of annoyance back to pure interstellar escapism.
Taylor Kitsch who I admired as Remy LeBeau in Wolverine plays the moody Confederate Captain, John Carter with a wide range of emotions from the defiant to the broken while always smouldering. His on screen connection with Princess of Helium, Lynn Collins who also played in Wolverine was not as convincing but I think that was somehow more from the way Collins tried to play an intelligent Xena Princess and it didn’t quite work.
I think the less we talk about Wolverine the better (worst movie ever?). Interesting point on Lynn Collins; She certainly had brief moments when you thought “click this works”, and others which seemed a little disconnected. Due to the small amount of time afforded to the foundation of her character it was a bit hard to pick who she was in terms of personality.
With the animated Barsoom Tharks played and voiced by actors like Willem Dafoe, Samantha Morton and Thomas Haden Church there was a strong on screen cast to keep the the plot moving. Mark Strong brings his very identifiable face and voice to the screen in another ‘love em or hate em’ role as sentient being Matai Shang.
Look i really feel while John Carter has plenty of positives and a side order of negatives its actually still an entertaining film. If you find yourself a comfortable seat you will be rewarded with a few hours of escapism which in part is witty and above all new. For me there is too much of the familiar in the cinema going experience, this film is something on a different tempo. I think it’s a film that is worth a visit.
Currently I’m hearing a lot of criticism from the critics and a lot of positive buzz from the fans. Will this be another movie where the theatre going public tell us they’re more interested in the story than the attributes used by critics to merit scores and quality. Roger Ebert thinks it was an ‘OK’ production designed to setup a franchise of sequels. Given the depth of material that Burroughs created that wouldn’t be a bad thing. For me and my tribe we’re more than happy with our trip to Mars.
Review written by Andrew Pitchford, additional comments by Skip Parker.
Rated by: Andrew Pitchford
Rated by: Skip Parker