O.K. this John Carter movie looks sorta like a Star Wars rip-off. Why should I spend my money to go see a retread? I’m Keith Kelly. Stick around, and I’ll let you know why “John Carter” is worth a trip to theatre.
I’m going to confess right up front that I’ve been a fan of John Carter of Mars for over 40 years. The original novel was written way back in 1911, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, whom some of you may know by his more famous creation-Tarzan of the Apes.
I instantly fell in love with the swashbuckling adventures of Mr. Carter, his princess Deja Thoris, the landscapes of a dying planet Mars, the 4-armed 15 foot tall Tharks, and all the other great bits of imagination that soaked every page.
The film has been in development hell since the 1930’s-first as an animated version, then with stop-motion, then with an ever-increasing list of filmmakers trying to get a handle on the sweeping story. Its influences have been seen in everything from Flash Gordon, to Superman, to Star Wars and Avatar. George Lucas especially borrowed heavily from the series. Maybe “borrowed” is too nice a word.
So Walt Disney finally bankrolled Director Andrew Stanton-the guy who brought Wall-E to life, and the end result is the $250 million “John Carter”. I guess they figured naming the film with its original title “A Princess of Mars” might have seemed a bit too wimpy.
The end result is a pretty decent movie that the trailers don’t do justice. Not totally spectacular, but a good, solid action-adventure space opera fitting for most members of the family. It’s not slavish to the book-which is not a bad thing since literary and movie tastes have changed a lot in the past hundred years. It does hold true to all the important aspects of the novel. Fighting man John Carter gets transported to a dying planet-Mars, or “Barsoom” as the natives call it. Because of the difference in gravity, he finds he is stronger, faster, and can leap tall buildings in a single bound. He first meets the savage Tharks, and their noble leader, or “Jeddak”-Tars Tarkas. We follow his adventures as he slowly steps into the role he is destined for-Savior of the planet Barsoom, and as he falls in love with Dejah Thoris.
This film is an exotic adventure, with great visuals, realistic and emotive alien creatures, stirring action and even a little romance. It does get a little too “talky” at times, slowing down the pace too much, and it takes awhile to get to the full-out action scenes, but it’s all worth it in the end.
Taylor Kitsch was not what I had originally envisioned as John Carter, but he won me over with his quiet brooding charm and a touch of humor-he wasn’t just a hunk with lots of muscles. Lynn Collins makes a luminous modern princess-smart, self-reliant with the ability to kick-ass. Mark Strong is slimy and powerful as the villain Matai Shang. I would have liked some more screen time for Willem Dafoe’s excellent Tars Tarkas, to see a little more of the building friendship that was in the book, but maybe we’ll see more of that in a sequel-if the box office demands one.
I give John Carter, directed by Andrew Stanton, a grade of “B”. I’m Keith Kelly.
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