With Walt Disney productions behind it, John Carter should be a a family friendly film with bright characters and a easy to follow plot.
Now John Carter is based on novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs ,namely ''The Princess of Mars'' , the film is also the first live action film by director Andrew Stanton who is more famous for his Pixar movies Finding Nemo and Wall E , he also co-wrote Monsters Inc and most of the Toy Story series.
Now for me the film is like a more adult version of Flash Gordon, a story that had been made into a film back in the late 30's and became very successful. Now Bob Clampett of Lonney tunes back in 1931 had approached Edgar Rice Burroughs about turning his story into a animated film, it went as far as test footage being filmed and shown to audiences ,but due to poor reception from the test screenings MGM ,the studio set to release the cartoons put it all on hold due to the test audience results ,saying many thought of this guy travelling to MARS finding a Princess and other races a preposterous idea.
Little did they know as Universal's Flash Gordon proved them wrong.
To the film , now the story is quite simple to be honest , Captain John Carter of the former Confederate army is also a man with a mission in life ,he wants to find the mysterious Spider Cave of Gold. When Union Colonel Powell arrests Carter ,knowing he is quite formidable in combat and evasion, he had hoped he could get help from Carter with the Apache problem.
But when Powell's trigger happy soldiers cause the Apache to attack them ,Carter rescues Powell and takes refuge in a cave ,which just happens to be the cave he has been searching for.
Now the cave has drawings on the walls ,they illustrate beings from other worlds and a race of overseers known as the Thern's, the Thern's are a race of beings that watch over the planets ,sculpturing their evolution by swinging the balance of power between rival factions. They blend in by taking on the form of any being of any planet at will.
In the cave ,as John Carter investigates his discovery a Thern appears in the cave ,he gets into a scuffle with him and kills him but also activates the Thern's form of travel ,a Medallion which possesses the passage of travel between planets.
This sends John Carter through time to the planet Barsoom (MARS) obviously not knowing he has jumped across the galaxy.
Now this may seem quite straightforward ,but the film starts with the Nephew of John Carter ,one Edgar Rice Burroughs being summoned to his uncles residence ,to find he has passed away and that he has inherited his estate and that his ledgers detailing the Spider Cave and all his findings his his to discover , John Carter has also had strange funeral arrangements made where his body is laid to rest in a Crypt in his grounds ,it contains no casket and his body was not to be embalmed opening to the Crypt is only opened from the inside.
Back to Barsoom . John Carter finds he can leap like no other as he has problems adjusting to the planets different gravity.
When he is approached by the planets nomad creatures the Thark's , these four armed creatures look a lot like Jaja Binks with tusks. Their leader tries to pacify the situation ,but of course Carter is a bit dumbfounded by these very tall multi armed creatures ,they end up taking him back to camp under force .
The Thark's leader Tars Tarkas ( Willem Dafoe) is amazed at Carter's ability to jump so fast and high , he also has a elevated strength due to his bone structure being different to the planets inhabitants.
The Thark's are just one of the inhabitants of the planet and there are cities controlled by their own Leaders known as Jeddaks (Emperors) , Tars Tarkas is also a Jeddak of his own kind.
There's the city of Helium and the area of Zodanga ,each is ruled by their own Emperor ,but the Thern's have switched the balance of power by offering the Zodanga's leader ,Jeddak Sab a power that can be used as a weapon to defeat the Jeddak of Helium's forces , the idea is so that they can offer a ultimatum of dyeing or merging by having the daughter of the Jeddak of Helium marry Jeddak Sab.
Now these other beings are of human likeness ,they also have the ability of flight with machines akin to aeroplanes powered by a energy force.
Of course the Helium Princess does not agree to this and absconds to do battle with the Zodanga's ,it's here that they will enter the area of the Thark's and where John Carter will see the Princess and save her from death.
Being that Carter has this elevated strength and speed ,he outwits the Zodangaa's ,saves the Princess and is hailed as a Thark warrior by Tars Tarkas.
The Princess reveals herself as Dejah Thoris ,she agrees to help John get back home ,but of course she has hopes to use him to free Helium from the hold Zodanga has on them.
So basically the story is one of good vs evil , much like Flash Gordon ,it has the evil empire and the subversive empire who only wish to get along with life. John Carter becomes the catalyst who will through his new found abilities and his friendship with the Thark leader upset the plans of the Thern's .
Now I have not read the books ,novels but assuming the story encompasses each of the races as envisioned in the novels ,then the films main problem may be the novels themselves . Though the film runs for two and a quarter hours the fact that we are dealing with five or even six different factions is what may cause the confusion many reviewers refer to when describing the film.
The film may have been better if the whole Thern story was not there and Carter just say found a amulet and jumped to the planet and found himself fighting for good against a evil empire , much like Flash Gordon with a more adult theme. What works in novella does not always come across in film and many things need to be adapted to come across as believable or comprehensible.
For younger viewers the story may prove to convoluted , even though the film was rated a PG13 ,you know on DVD many younger viewers are going to see it.
Now the film more or less bombed in the USA ,due to it's high budget , though it did well in Europe and Russia where it made a mint for a film on screen there.
Financially for Walt Disney and Pixar who where involved but in a understated role, the film was a a flop. Many contribute this to Andre Stanton's ability to do live action , and the fact he went against many tried and tested formulas to making live action ,often choosing to implement his animation ideas into live action.
The plan was for the film to be a trilogy based on the various novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs ,but that plan was put permanently on hold by Walt Disney.
Some attribute the fact that a unknown cast was chosen ,not having a A-list star in the two leads may have put paid to such project before it began ,but that was the choice of Stanton.
For me the film was a enjoyable two hours and some , the Thark's design where to much like the Jaja Binks character from Star Wars , he got on my nerves there and the Thark's likeness just reminded me of him.
But that's not a reason no to like the film, I felt the story of the Thern's was not told well enough ,also the vague flashbacks of Carter's life on Earth did little to enlighten me or push the films story on.
The films effects where first class and as well as 2D there where 3D versions and IMAX versions to. But did not feel the designs of the effects gave that wow factor ,maybe being to reserved in a bid to appeal to a more adult orientated audience. Far to much desert shots for my liking.
John Carter is a good film, not great though as a adventure film it won't come close to films like Star Wars, the first Matrix or even Highlander in it's cult film status.
Review Date : March 2013
Reviewer : CP88
|Directed by||Andrew Stanton|
|Produced by||Jim Morris |
|Screenplay by||Andrew Stanton |
|Based on||A Princess of Mars |
by Edgar Rice Burroughs
|Starring||Taylor Kitsch |
|Music by||Michael Giacchino|
|Editing by||Eric Zumbrunnen|
|Distributed by||Walt Disney Pictures|
|Release date(s)|| |
|Running time||132 minutes|
Characters and Cast
source : wikipedia