Saturday, March 10, 2012

So THIS Is What Mars Looks Like: Our Review of Disney's "John Carter" (2012)

Directed By: Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL-E

Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe, Mark Strong

Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action

Synopsis: While prospecting for gold in Arizona following the Civil War, former Confederate soldier John Carter is accidentally transported to Mars. There, he is discovered by a native tribe called the Tharks, meets a princess of another tribe and becomes embroiled in a war between differing factions of the planet all while trying to find his way back to Earth.


Andrew: Hello readers! I'm back from my business trip to Indianapolis; and just in time for me and Sarah to check out the new Disney film John Carter. I'm sure a segment of our readership knows that the film is based off the book A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (best known for creating Tarzan), but for those that didn't you do now. Originally published as a pulp magazine serial in 1912, the original story introduced the character of John Carter and was the first of 11 novels in the series. Burroughs' works are essentially the precursor for popular science fiction tales such as Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and George Lucas' Star Wars saga.

So with all of that in mind, Sarah, what did you think of John Carter?

Sarah: Well this was a tough one. I wanted to like it. I wanted to like it REALLY bad, but there were just some things that I couldn't get around. I will give it the positives first, though.

The motion capture with the native species, the Tharks, was incredibly well done. Willem Dafoe did a really good job as the leader of the Tharks and he helped bring the characters to life for the audience. The settings that made up Mars, mainly shot in Utah, were perfect. It really did look like another world. Some of the action really was fun! And it was fun to get little ideas of where the sci-fi movies that we have come to love got some of their ideas. Now, what did you think were some of the positives?

A: The positives I got out of John Carter were:

- The special effects were very well done. 99% of the time the special effects were quite seamless with the action, the CGI that created the Tharks and other animals on the planet was very good compared to most films, and the CGI settings were impressive.

- The directing by Andrew Stanton was impressive in my eyes. The film looked great, a number of scenes were shot in a way that made me go “Wow, that was good,” and overall I think the film looked the way Stanton wanted it to.

- It was entertaining for the most part. It was a story I was unfamiliar with, the action was good, and most of the actors did a good job with their roles.

- The last main positive for me was the score by Academy Award winner Michael Giacchino. He's done fantastic work over the last decade (The Incredibles, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Pixar's Up, the television series Lost) and he does a great job of making the music enhance the setting and the action. I really do think this guy is the next John Williams.

All of that said, there are certainly some negatives with this movie. What were some of the ones that stuck out to you?

S: I think the story adaptation was lacking. While I haven't read the books, I can't imagine that they were as disjointed as parts of this movie were. Another part was the dialogue; at times it was just unbearable, cheesy. That's where I saw the influence for Star Wars. (Not really, but there were times when it was just not good.)

Now that I think of it though, I'm not sure if it was the writing or if it was the actors. I really was not a big fan of Taylor Kitsch in this role. He was pretty bland throughout the film. There were times when he was supposed to show some true emotion on his way to becoming John Carter of Mars, and I just didn't really believe it. What did you think?

A: THANK YOU! I completely agree with you that Kitsch was miscast as John Carter. I know that the filmmakers cast Kitsch because other than starring on the television version of Friday Night Lights he's essentially an unknown and hoped that he would BE John Carter, instead of casting a known actor. But I think that was a mistake because while I thought Kitsch looked the part some of the time, he didn't sound the part and couldn't pull off the so-so dialogue.

I kept thinking about how when George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were first trying to make Raiders of the Lost Ark they tried to get Tom Selleck and couldn't so they went with Harrison Ford instead even though he was famous for being Han Solo in Star Wars. If an actor is right for the part, he's right for the part. It doesn't matter that he might be known as something else. I truly think that if it weren't for J.J. Abrams' Star Trek films, Chris Pine would've been perfect for this film.

Jake Gyllenhaal is another actor that comes to my mind who would have been a good fit for the role, but I think his starring in the Disney flop Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time killed any hope of that.

I also felt that a lot of the dialogue was confusing simply because of the names of the characters and locations and it all just kind of mixed together to me.

S: What I think we need to pound into our reader's mind is that John Carter of Mars was the FIRST of it's kind. All of the science-fiction movies and televisions shows were derived from THIS STORY. That is what makes it kind of a bummer that this movie has taken SO long to come out. People will go see this movie and compare it to every other sci-fi movie or show ever made and that's just not fair to it. So, readers, when you go and see this movie try to go in without thinking about George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and other sci-fi flicks.

A: It IS an entertaining movie as a whole but it’s also uneven, so it could be boring at times for some people. Overall though, we do think John Carter is a movie that you should see in theatres because of the scope of the film, and it's a good way to kill an afternoon. Our final rating for John Carter is:

(out of five)

1 comment:

  1. Good review. Kitsch could have definitely been a little bit more charismatic but the flick still works due to amazing special effects and some really fun and exciting action. Sad thing is that this flick was made for $250 million and won’t make any of it back. Not a must-see by any means but still a good one to check out for the fun of it. Check out my review when you get the chance.