John Carter: A Flickcharter’s Movie Review
Disney’s John Carter has a lot going for it. Which makes it unfortunate that the film has such a big handicap: All John Carter wants to be is an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burrough’s A Princess of Mars, and on that front (though I’m not personally familiar with Burrough’s work), I think it succeeds. But despite the fact that the source material this film is based on is nearly 100 years old, many average film-goers are likely to experience the feeling that they’ve seen it all before.
A princess in peril who nonetheless seems quite capable of handling herself in a fight? Check. Big, epic, alien-filled battles? Check. A shadowy figure, quietly manipulating political events while keeping his very existence hidden in the shadows? Check. Hovering vehicles that strongly resemble speeder bikes? Check. More than just shades of Star Wars.
A human displaced, finding himself drawn to an alien woman and fighting to save an alien planet’s indigenous population? Check. Avatar trod this ground only a little more than two years ago. (In fact, for a tale that’s been in production hell for decades, I can only imagine that John Carter was finally put into production in earnest precisely because of Avatar‘s success.)
In many ways, John Carter acts rather like a companion piece to Avatar. In many other ways, it’s the anti-Avatar. Very, very similar stories. Equally convincing visual effects and alien creatures. Mars is as visually immersive as Pandora, in pretty much the opposite color palette. I happened to enjoy both films; only another look at John Carter will tell me which I prefer.
It’s a good thing Martians bleed blue, or this one would have required an R rating (something I could only imagine would be a no-no for Disney). John Carter might seem to fit into the type of big-budget adventure that all of Disney’s recent live-action films are becoming, but I would hold this up against Pirates of the Caribbean and claim that the only thing that makes the latter remarkable at all is Johnny Depp‘s performance.
Though there’s nobody as memorable as Captain Jack Sparrow, the cast in John Carter is solid. Taylor Kitsch is a likable hero, with Mark Strong (seriously typecast) a great choice for that “Emperor Palpatine” role. (Look, even I’m doing it, while trying to put Star Wars out of my mind.) Pixar veteran Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL·E) proves his chops big-budget live-action adventure.
No, John Carter does not break ground that Star Wars and Avatar have not tread before. But I happen to enjoy these types of big sci-fi adventures, and this movie merely seeks to adapt source material that other films have already stolen from. The book was ahead of its time; the movie seems to be arriving a bit late. But I think it deserves to be seen on its own merits.
(Just skip the 3-D, if you can; what a nauseating trend that’s become.)
John Carter is currently ranked #192/1362 (86%) on my Flickchart.