Saturday, March 17, 2012

Movie Review: John Carter

John Carter [of Mars]

1. Short review: 

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked:  First, the visuals. The scenes of Barsoom are eye-popping beautiful. The CGI is stunning and seamless. Second, Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris. Third, the dimensions added to the characters John Carter and Dejah Thoris.  Fourth, Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris. Fifth, the story. Last, did I mention Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris?
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? Roller coaster.

2.2. What I did not like:  Nits.
1. When John Carter tried to pay for his supplies in the Arizona general store, he used a tooled rectangle of gold. Not raw gold, but tooled gold. Where did that come from?
2. Colonel Powell says John Carter was decorated for bravery five times. I am not aware that the Confederate Army gave decorations. The only decoration the Union Army gave was the Congressional Medal of Honor, which was created during the Civil War.
3. The paddles John Carter, Dejah Thoris, and Sola use on the River Iss are nonsense. Paddles have been invented by thousands of different cultures. In every instance, they are straight. Those curved paddles are ridiculous. Fire the property master.
4. The Martian swords are unusable. The Martian swords are broad at the tip and heavier at the tip. This makes them bad Claymores. You cannot fence with that weapon. See Rob Roy (the movie). And the hand guard around the hilt . . . can you say 'self-inflicted wound'? I knew you could. Again, fire the property master.

2.3. Who I think is the audience:  Everybody. Those who have read A Princess of Mars and The Gods of Mars will enjoy it more, 'cause they will understand the actions on Barsoom that are not explained in the movie.

2.4. Is the movie appropriate for children to see?  I think so. No sex and no nudity, but lots of skin. Movie violence; that is, death but no blood. Except for white ape blood -- which is blue.

2.5. On the basis of viewing this movie, will I pay to see the sequel?  Yes.

2.6. Other:  Let me tell you how I rate movies.
-- I want my money back.
-- Worth a rental, not more.
-- Worth first-run theater price once.
-- I will pay first-run theater price to see it again.

Despite the nits, John Carter gets my highest recommendation. The movie was fun. I enjoyed it very much.

The visuals are eye-popping beautiful. Often I was on the edge of my seat just taking in the view.

Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews, and Michael Chabon gave the characters John Carter and Dejah Thoris dimensions that Edgar Rice Burroughs never did. ERB's John Carter was a warmonger who loved to fight. The screenwriters cast the character as a man who fights well when he has to but does not seek combat. ERB's Dejah Thoris existed to be beautiful and to be rescued by John Carter. She was just a damsel in distress. The movie's Dejah Thoris is a strong woman who does not need John Carter -- she wants him.

Stanton, Andrews, and Chabon took elements from A Princess of Mars and The Gods of Mars and crafted a new, coherent saga of Barsoom. It is different, but it is good. Kudos.

Barsoom in the movie was different from Barsoom in the books. Examples, 1) in the books, nobody returns from the River Iss, 2) Dejah Thoris is not a scientist and inventor, and 3) the Therns wear blond wigs over their bald heads. In the movie, the Therns are much more powerful. And Zodanga crawls across the dead seas of Barsoom.

Having recently reread the John Carter trilogy (my review), I knew what was going on when others in the audience were confused. Three examples. One, after loading the new-hatched Tharks on their thoats, the green warriors shoot the remaining eggs. They do this to kill the weak and ensure that all Tharks are strong. Two, when the Tharks arrive, the adults scramble to claim a child. This is how Tharks are raised. They have no families. The clan is their identity. Last, Sola calls Tars Tarkas 'father'. She knows he is her father because her mother kept her egg from the clan incubator and brought up Sola with knowledge of who her family was. This knowledge makes Sola unique among Tharks.

Because I had recently reread the books, it was easy for me to keep track of the characters.

Oh, did I mention that Lynn Collins does justice to the character of Dejah Thoris, the most beautiful woman in two worlds? I would pay good money to apply those henna tattoos to her. A picture of her as Dejah Thoris is now my computer wallpaper.

Taylor Kitsch gave an admirable performance as John Carter. I was glad to see a fighting man with long hair. Lynn Collins made Dejah Thoris hers. This could well be a signature role for her. Mark Strong gave Matai Shang an ominous air. A pity he had no more to do than that.

Disney is superstitious but not diligent. The opening movie title is 'John Carter' but the closing title is 'John Carter of Mars'. There is some speculation floating around the internet that Disney feared to use 'Mars' in the title, because every movie they have made before with 'Mars' in the title tanked.

If John Carter succeeds, it will be in spite of Disney. Disney released this movie in March, vice the blockbuster season beginning in May. The publicity given this movie has been minimal. And did you see the poster at the top of this post? That's what they are using in theaters. Can you say 'sucks'? I knew you could.

John Carter has received mixed reviews. Some like it, some don't. I like it. A lot. I plan to see this movie again.

2.7. Links: 
SF Signal review
Schlock Mercenary review
Rotten Tomatoes review

2.8. See the movie:  Find the show times for your location.

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