Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Review: John Carter (Andrew Stanton, 2012)

Every year I make a top 10 or 20 anticipatedmovie list and every year there’s at least one or two movies I regret to put on the list, because I don’t expect to enjoy it. This year I already missed the Grey on my list, although in my defense I did not know about the movie’s existence until after I made my list. In this case, I regret this movie was not higher on my list. John Carter exceeded my expectations by quite a large margin and looking back, there are plenty of clues that could have suggested I would enjoy this movie quite a bit.

First, director Andrew Stanton, having little but great success with directing Pixar’s animated movies such as A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo and WALL-E.  The ladder two are in my top 100 Films of All Time List. Stanton is the second director we’ve seen in the last 3 months making the transition from animated to live action with great success. The first being Brad Bird with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, which I also enjoyed.

Second, John Carter is a Disney produced movie. Disney of course owns Pixar but Disney is also responsible for bringing to life Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl (I pretend the other three movies don’t exist). Disney was a afraid the dark themed PG-13 Pirates of the Caribbean would deter parents from taking their kids, and be a scar on their reputation but the movie ended up grossing $654 million worldwide.

And lastly, I knew nothing of the source material before viewing the movie therefore I had very little attachment to the character John Carter. When I asked people at work whether they were interested in the movie, a buddy of mine joked; “They made a spinoff of Terminator?”

John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is mysteriously transported to Mars to which there is oxygen and two races living on the slowly dying planet. One of the races looks human while the other race has green skin and four arms. The human races are in the middle of a civil war and John Carter meets the beautiful Princess of Helium, (Lynn Collins) who requires the help of Carter to defend their city Helium from a pending attack. Carter is reluctant to fight for anyone, but eventually sees the good of bringing peace to the planet of Mars.

I was initially afraid the overwhelming use of CGI would be a huge distraction as it typically is with movies that need giant exotic set pieces. The trailer reminded me a lot of what Attack of the Clones looked like, but I was surprised at how fantastically rendered the effects were. The space ships did not seem implausible, the giant white apes did not look fake, the green Martians moved and acted alien and John Carter’s ability to jump great distances did not look unrealistic. Because John is accustomed to the gravity on Earth giving him greater bone density, John is much stronger and has the ability to jump great distances.

Having casted Johnny Depp so well as Captain Jack Sparrow in Curse of the Black Perl, I feel Disney may have got away with casting Taylor Kitsch  (who?) as John Carter. In hindsight, the film only made $30 million domestically in its first weekend so they probably are debating whether they made the right choice whereas maybe a bigger named actor could have drawn more people to see the movie. Kitsch does not bring anything special to the table and merely carries out his lines in verably bland fashion. The comic relief is typical Disney styled humor, mostly revolving around a dog-like Alien creature that follows John Carter around and Lynn Collins is stunning ly beautiful in her role. John Carter of Mars is a uniquely complicated plot from Disney, but overall gives a fairly enjoyable story and respectable action set pieces sequences. My guess is the debate to turn this series into a trilogy or more will ultimately depend on the final gross and how well DVD sales turn out so do not expect any sequel announcements soon. 

Grade: 89