It wouldn’t be fair to describe “John Carter” as a failed attempt. It may have been a box office disaster (Disney expected the film would generate a loss of about $200 million!!), but plot-wise, it’s not that bad. I never read Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novels about Carter and the planet Mars, but apparently, various filmmakers have tried to bring it to the big screen since the 1930’s. Disney finally did it at an estimated cost of $250 million. The film has enough visual effects and story material for two movies, and it features Taylor Kitsch (famous so far for his work on the TV series “Friday Night Light”) as John Carter, the post-Civil War-era Confederate soldier from Virginia who finds himself “teleported” to the red planet (called Barsoom here). Once there, he’s immediately captured and analyzed by a green, warlike people known as Tharks. Then he realizes that the lighter gravity gives him the ability to jump hundreds of feet into the air (he’s also very strong). Not bad at all. This impresses even the fiercest warriors he meets, including a princess (Lynn Collins) whose father wants her to marry one of their enemies in order to create a peaceful alliance. At first glance, “John Carter” sounds like a copycat, ripping off “Star Wars” and even “Avatar”. Well sorry to break it to you haters, but “Carter” go there first (the story is over a 100 years old). And despite all the bumps in the script, conducted by director Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews and novelist Michael Chabon, the movie is campy fun. My personal advice to you is to forget about all the negative reviews, and just watch it.
But fun aside, I think “John Carter” could have been huge, instead of just entertaining. Stanton is an experienced cinematic storyteller, and from him, expectations are usually high. I dreaded the fact that the movie has too many confusing scenes (what’s the difference between a Thark and a Thern? I’ll never know), and at some point, I couldn’t keep track of all the characters, which is one of its problems. But still, no movie so rich in visual effects and action could be easily dismissed. In a way, it’s all these elements combined that make “John Carter” a ride worth taking.
Note: Prior to the film’s release, the filmmakers reported that John Carter was intended to be the first film of a trilogy. However, the film’s box office performance will probably work against these sequels. Damn shame if you ask me.
Categories: The Twenty-First Century