JOHN CARTER OF MARS YOU PUNK SUCKERS!

Posted: March 2, 2012 in Braak, movies, reviews, Threat Quality
Tags: , , ,

Released in the United States as John Carter, even though he is definitely of Mars. This is a pretty good movie, about a Civil War veteran who, via some kind of magical scientific process, is transported to Mars, where he gains the power of LEAPING, and uses it to fight some giant green Martians, and also Sab Than, the ruler of a city that wanders across the Martian desert preying on smaller, weaker cities.

This is the first live-action movie by  Andrew Stanton (famous Pixar guy responsible for, among other things, Wall-E and Finding Nemo), but at least a third of the actors and probably about two-thirds of the sets are computer animation.  The look and design of the movie is pretty fantastic (except for, in a few costuming and props choices, where it looks like they kind of got some leftover stuff from Lord of the Rings or Rome), though for whatever reason, Stanton seems less interested in lingering on the spectacular Martian vistas, the alien cities, the crazy BATTLING that goes on, and maybe too much time lingering on how sad John Carter is about his dead wife.

The backstory of Carter — how he lost a wife and child and thus became disenchanted with war in general (which motivates his reluctance to participate in the epic battles on Mars) is pretty different from the books, if I recall correctly, and it’s the place where the movie kind of falls short.  In the first place, Taylor Kitsch just isn’t really an interesting glowerer.  It’s good that he’s got angst and everything, and he’s got this gravelly, Christian-Bale-Is-the Batman voice, but while Bale looks haunted and bubbling with repressed rage, Kitsch just seems like kind of a growly jerk.

Dejah Thoris: Come on, man, don't make him choose.

But in the second place, it just seems like a wrong step — a clunky, artificial way to introduce pathos to a story that’s really an epic adventure on Mars.  And, really, it doesn’t serve its purpose:  Tars Tarkis, the head of the green Martian tribes who befriends John Carter, is a plenty sympathetic figure with a nice bit of character work for Willem Dafoe; the relationship between Carter and Dejah Thoris (dead-sexy Lynn Collins) — a princess of the Red Martians whose fate hinges on all of this BATTLING — is a plenty compelling relationship for a movie like this.  Handsome stranger meets a beautiful princess, they don’t quite get along right away, but then they do.  He does not need the ghosts of his dead wife and child haunting him.

There’s hardly anything we need to know about his personal life at all, since the framing story (which seems kind of lame in the trailers) actually turns out to be both interesting and relevant to the movie as a whole — just not in any way that has much of anything to do with John Carter’s tortured past.

It’s really a shame, because the rest of the movie is a swashbuckling Martian epic, and it wanted a hero like Indiana Jones or Robin Hood or even T. E. Lawrence (a lot of this movie feels like it came from an earlier script called John Carter of Arabia, actually, which I am completely okay with).  John Carter as the haunted war vet just serves to bring up the issues that attend the horrors of war, only to gloss over them in a kind of “well, it’s okay to go to war and watch your family die, as long as you’re fighting for a good cause,” and really, we didn’t need all that.

HOWEVER, all that said, despite the movie’s problems, it is still pretty fun.  John Carter leaps, he chops up some giant green Martians, saves the princess, there is a monster dog that he is friends with. Two thumbs up, would watch again!

(But: don’t bother seeing it in 3D.  The 3D conversion I guess is okay, but it doesn’t add anything to the movie, it’s not designed to take advantage of the 3D, I mostly forgot about it until the nausea started kicking in around hour two.)

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