Movie Review - John Carter
From the pages of Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Barsoom" novels, we get get Disney's JOHN CARTER and it's about time. Rumour has it that this film has been in development on and off since the early 1930's by various persons and studios. Well, it's finally here and it is big!
John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is a veteran of the Civil War, a confederate soldier. His part in the war has changed him in more ways than one and leaves him drawn to the wild west for the promise of gold. Even though Carter tries his best to avoid trouble, for some strange reason it keeps finding him. Drawn into a battle, he hides out in a nearby cave which is the source of fear to his Native American pursuers. Soon after he finds himself inexplicably transported to a seemingly uninhabited and arid world known as Barsoom, this is where the story really begins.
John Carter, the character, first appeared in a magazine serialisation in 1912 so it seems fitting to have him grace our screens for his centenary. Having age on his side is certainly a plus. John Carter, the film, has a classic feel to it. The same kind of feel that you get from properties like Burrough's own Tarzan, Conan, Alice in Wonderland and the books of Papa Tolkien. It is a classic tale of a fractured man who finds himself in a completely foreign situation and is forced to rise to his potential. A classic monomyth, the hero's journey. Such a strange and dangerous environment still manages to feel familiar with the mountains of Barsoom (Mars) resembling the deserts of Cowboys and Aliens and a Gladiatorial battle which felt strikingly similar to the one in Star Wars: Episode 2. That said, we should be mindful that the work that this film is based on - A Princess of Mars - was published 95 years ago.
The action sequences are nothing short of astounding and as I mentioned before, big. Carter's "powers" are actually somewhat plausible and in being so, allow for the suspension of disbelief. Taylor Kitsch brings a great physicality to the role of Carter and not just due to his buff, if not sallow bod. I was left wondering if perhaps his complexion was an attempt to highlight the copper skin of Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins). Collins also brings a presence to the screen as the Helium Princess although her appearance is somewhat at odds with the description originally given by Burroughs - "that of a slender, girlish figure". Lynn Collins is all woman, athletic and slender yet curvaceous. I personally think that this is a positive, Lynn Collins looks as though she can handle a blade to cut down hordes of Zodangan's. The action sequences are incredibly dynamic and the CGI is very close to being flawless. There will no doubt be comparisons to Avatar, both because of the use of CGI and Carter's body transference, but remember the Mr. Burroughs did it first and Mr. Stanton did it better.
Pixar alumni never fail to deliver the core values of story telling and director Andrew Stanton (Wall-E, Finding Nemo) holds true. One notable difference from his Pixar work is the almost total absence of humour. There are a couple of moments of humour delivered by Woola, a silent CGI dog... thing... and Tars Tarkas, the four armed CGI Thark who is voiced by Willem Dafoe of all people. John Carter has a wonderful cast of actors who you probably know by face but not necessarily by name such as Thomas Haden Church, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, Dominic West and James Purefoy.
The only thing that left me wanting after watching John Carter was the delivery of 3D. It was entirely unremarkable and after 132 minutes I couldn't think of a single specific "WOW" moment at the hands of 3D. This certainly shouldn't be a deal breaker because you can always save yourself $2 and just see it in good ol' 2D.
I thoroughly enjoyed John Carter, a family friendly blockbuster of undeniable pedigree. Great action, solid performances, fantastic visuals and an undeniably classic story combine to create a film that will be an instant Disney classic which will undoubtedly spawn an all new franchise, Disney's sci-fi answer to Pirates of the Caribbean.
John Carter is in cinemas nation wide from tomorrow.
If you're still not sold, check out an official 10 minute clip below!