Wednesday, March 07, 2012
Written by Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon
Directed by Andrew Stanton
Starring Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Willem Dafoe and Mark Strong
Introduction: Mars - So you name it and think you know it.
In all honesty, there are only two reasons I wanted to see JOHN CARTER. The first was to see the live-action debut from Andrew Stanton, a director who has given me two of my favorite films, FINDING NEMO and WALL-E, and who has established himself as one of the great contemporary animated filmmakers. The second reason I wanted to see JOHN CARTER was so that I could finally make sense of what was happening in the trailers for the film. Every time I would see them, my head would hurt trying to figure out what exactly it was I was looking at. Sadly, making sense of the images, did nothing to make them any more interesting to me. It’s passable but I doubt it will ever be memorable.
For those of you who are still in the dark about JOHN CARTER, allow me to break it down for you. A young marksman by the name of John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is evading the army in 1881, New York City. He struggles with a weird bald guy wearing a robe in a cave and suddenly he is on Mars, otherwise known to the people of Mars as Barsoom. Here he is dropped into the middle of planetary unrest and civil war and he can’t even understand how to get his footing on the ground. He encounters a species known as the Tarks and they take him into their barbaric society, which leads to his eventual meeting with Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins), the princess of one of the planet’s last remaining ruling cities. And like most princesses I know, she needs saving. Civilizations are crashing all over Barsoom but yet the fate of the planet hangs in the balance of whether the princess decides to marry the mean man or not. Different planet, same old contrived plot problem.
I readily admit that fantasy films are not my thing but I have no problems getting lost in the imaginings of another man’s mind as long as there seems to be adequate reason to be there. JOHN CARTER is plenty pretty from a visual standpoint and contains many a well executed thrill sequence but it never reaches the heights its grandness needs to sustain itself. Albeit based on a much loved and thought to be heavily influential Edgar Rice Burroughs (the author who created “Tarzan”) series, JOHN CARTER the movie bears very little weight or depth, which leaves the viewer wondering what all the fuss is about. If this is truly one of the greatest untold film stories, then why does it feel like a somewhat tenuous cornerstone of a film franchise that may never live to see its first sequel?