John Carter (2012)
Starring Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, Bryan Cranston and the voices of Willem Dafoe and Samantha Morton.
Written by Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon
Directed by Andrew Stanton
John Carter marks the live action film directorial debut of Pixar director and scribe Andrew Stanton. Much like his fellow Pixar alum, Brad Bird, Stanton has chosen a big budget action project for his first foray into live-action filmmaking. Unfortunately for Stanton, Bird hit big with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol while John Carter has stumbled out the gates.
We are introduced to the titular character (Kitsch) as he is followed down the street during the late 1800’s. He drops his tail to deliver a telegram to his nephew, writer Edgar Rice Burroughs (Daryl Sabara). When Burroughs arrives he finds Carter apparently dead with strange requests regarding his last rites and a journal left behind for him to read. This is the backdrop for our introduction to John Carter, a native Virginian who was a Captain in the civil war. By the time we meet him he is a ruff and tumble prospector looking for a “Cave of Gold” which is part of the local folklore. After a jailbreak and a run in with natives Carter does discover his cave. Unfortunately for John, he ends up being transported unknowingly to Barsoom (know on Earth as Mars) by a member of the mysterious “Thern” who have the ability to shift between space with the aid of a talisman. Carter awakes to discover that he can leap miles high and wide due to the different gravity he is under and that Mars is perfectly suitable to sustain human life.
Carter almost immediately stumbles on a nesting ground for the Tharks, a race of gigantic green tusked warriors, whose leader Tars Tarkas (Dafoe) quickly recognizes Carter’s abilities and adopts him as part of his tribe. While Tars Tarkas sees Carter’s abilities as an asset in Barsoom’s own Civil War, John has no desire to fight for anyone as the War took a heavy personal toll on him. Alas, trouble finds its way to Carter as he literally leaps to the rescue of Deja Thoris (Collins), the beautiful humanoid princess caught between two warring factions, as her father (Hinds) has promised her hand in marriage to end the bloodshed. Carter’s actions land him firmly in the middle of all the fighting and once again he must reluctantly choose a side and fight.
If that synopsis seems overlong and overstuffed then you’re absolutely right. There’s about three movies worth of plot and story crammed into this epic, and unfortunately the film feels muddled and rushed because of it. Somewhere I’m sure there is a kickass 3 1/2 hour cut of John Carter that was lost on the editing room floor. That said John Carter still packs enough fun and action to give it a mild recommendation. This film will captivate the kids who are patient enough with it as it packs some great effects work and well staged action set pieces, even if one is directly lifted from Attack of the Clones. Taylor Kitsch does good work here as the titular character; his charisma and likeability center the film and keep us involved. Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, and Bryan Cranston are given little to do though. Collins is fine as the love interest, but ultimately the entire film lands on Kitsch’s shoulders.
In the end, John Carter is a bit of a missed opportunity. This could have been the next great Science Fiction series if they had the patience to let it play out over a series of movies. Instead, it’s a passable film that will have a hard time recouping its cost, and unfortunately that will probably disuade any chance of this becoming that series.
Til next time,
The Movie Junkie TO
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