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;'John Carter'

A film directed by Andrew Stanton Loosely based on the character by Edgar Rice Burroughs

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Welcome to Mars

  • Jul 4, 2012
Rating:
+3
I know what you're thinking: John Carter was a freaking nuclear bomb. You know that, and so, like most people you're automatically associating the movie's puny monetary takeback with an especially rotten stench. Frankly, that's being pretty harsh, for one thing; between production, advertising, and every other expense filmmaking tends to incur, some financial whizzes got together and concluded that John Carter wouldn't have broken even without an intake of around $700 million. It's Disney's fault for shelling out so much - John Carter was one hell of a gamble, and Disney lost the house.

So, can you tell me what that means to you? It really doesn't mean anything except that John Carter was a bad idea to make. For those willing to ignore the financial underhaul, John Carter has a very engaging narrative, an astounding fantastical look and feel, an effective and charismatic lead performance from star Taylor Kitsch, and a fast pace through which a couple of hours fly by. Yes, the grand scale of John Carter is quite a fiasco, but director Andrew Stanton was obviously being as much a perfectionist as he could possibly be, and so it's far better constructed than you might expect. If this thing was handed off to Roland Emmerich or, god forbid, Michael Bay, it would have looked every bit the fiasco the story makes it look like.

Since the titular character is fictional, it was probably a mistake for them to name the movie "John Carter." John Carter. Yeah, really? John Carter what? John Carter, capitalist donkey wrestler? John Carter, Ph. D garbage man? No, it appears to be John Carter, Civil War veteran, John Carter, great hero and savior of Mars. The original title of the movie was, in fact, going to be John Carter of Mars, and it was based on a classic book by Edgar Rice Burroughs called A Princess of Mars. (Burroughs was the guy who wrote Tarzan of the Apes.) Stanton, however, changed it to just John Carter, stating a pair of ridiculous excuses: The first, of course, was money. He wanted it to appeal to a broader audience, which given the movie's massive overall price tag, I can't blame him for doing. The second was that John Carter is an origin story. It's not about John Carter of Mars, but about John Carter of the Virginia Cavalry becoming John Carter of Mars.

It's 1868 and the Civil War has been over for three years, and John Carter, a man with one hell of a military record, decided to go the course probably gone by a few disillusioned Confederate soldiers: Upset that his country doesn't exist anymore, he just wants to go out to the territories - Arizona in this case - and get rich through his personal gold mine. The Army needs his help, though, and Carter's not exactly up for giving it out to his enemies. They try to recruit Carter through the time-tested method of impressment, and Carter manages to escape and get out into the wilderness, where he hides from some Apaches in a cave. Some dude appears literally out from thin air and tries to kill Carter, but Carter gets the better of him, takes his medallion, and is transported to some weird place called Barsoom. He gets captured by a bunch of equally weird, green four-armed creatures called Tharks, but in the process he learns that his strength and jump height have been greatly enhanced.

Carter picked a very bad time to appear; after a millennium of warring with each other constantly, the two Barsoom power centers - Zodanga and Helium - are rearing their ugly political heads. Zodanga, you see, has been trying to conquer the planet, and they've gotten most of it. Helium has been the last outpost of defense, matching them soldier to soldier and airship to airship. Zodanga's leader, Sab Than, claims to be getting a little sick of fighting; in reality, he's just acting as a pawn to three figures who appeared out of nowhere and gave him a superweapon, offering full power of Barsoom. He's been having his way with the Helium military ever since, and wants to marry Helium's Princess, Dejah, to put a permanent end to war. Since Sab's weapon of destruction has been cutting down all resistance, Helium doesn't see much of a choice in the matter. Dejah, however, isn't quite so conciliatory, and as Sab's forces drag her away to Zodanga, she escapes, falls off her airship, and is saved by Carter. Through her, Carter learns that the true identity of Barsoom is actually the planet Mars, and that the lower gravity there explains his newfound god strength.

Dejah looks at Carter like Helium's savior, a man to use against Sab's new weapon. Carter just wants to go home, and so they begin a downriver journey to learn how to utilize the ninth ray, the key to understanding the medallion that brought Carter to Mars. The don't quite complete the quest before being tracked down, though, and although Carter is given his escape back to Earth, he decides maybe the Helium cause is a worthy one after all and that while John Carter of Virginia led a boring existence and would only see him pursued by the military and forced into service, John Carter of Mars sounds just right. So that decision comes with the responsibility of sticking around, rallying the Tharks, saving the Princess from the marriage she's forced into, and teaching the Zodangans the only lesson they'll ever need: Don't mess with John Carter!

It's true that Barsoom has a much more B-movie look and feel to it than other modern contemporaries like Avatar's resident world, Pandora, or Peter Jackson's envisioning of Middle-Earth in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. John Carter in general has a more cartoonish look and feel than either of those two. This is in large part because the computer effects are so obviously computerized. The feeling is worse because of the designs of the Tharks, and it IS really hard to make long-distance jumping look plausible. The airships don't help much because they're exactly that - giants ships that happen to fly and not float on a sea. The characters, in fact, find the idea of seafaring ships odd.

Naturally, it asks for a lot of suspension of disbelief, but for those able to do that, John Carter is rich in rewards. While the main plot is kept pretty simple and easy to follow, it's clear there is a rich mythology which can be mined out of Mars-as-Barsoom. The original books by Burroughs supposedly run for a series of twelve or 13 books, which means there's an entire world here, like Dune or Lord of the Rings, that a lot of independent stories can be created from and spun off. We know Barsoom has been at war with itself for 1000 years, and we're introduced to the different races - and even species. The Tharks appear to have a real background and some unique traditions of their own, along with some different beliefs - one scene takes place in a Thark house of worship, and later, we learn that Tharks don't fly, and the reason for that is never given to us. The three god-people who appear out of nowhere to present Sab with his weapon are never explained, and neither is their reason for cheering Sab on. I expect a few future John Carter movies to handle this, or at least I would if there were going to be any further John Carter movies.

Through roaring performances, engaging mythology, and a stunning fantasy world brought about by a very competent perfectionist director, John Carter gives us one of the summer's great popcorn movies. It doesn't half-wit its approach, like most other summer blockbusters, and so there's much more good than bad to be taken with John Carter for the open-minded. The movie moves quickly and it entertains the whole way through. No, the movie isn't perfect, but given how much could have easily gone wrong, Andrew Stanton did a wonderful job getting everything sorted out, and it really works. So ignore the critics, and make a little room in your weekend to see John Carter. No, you're not in for Earth's-matle-like layers of allegorical depth. But man, it's one hell of a ride.

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July 05, 2012
I thought this movie was very contrived but its entertainment value alone was easy to embrace. This was not a bad movie at all, despite its box-office performance, it was a decent popcorn movie.
July 05, 2012
Yeah, it's just a shame so many movies are judged by box office intake, at least by the moviegoing public.
 
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More John Carter reviews
review by . March 10, 2012
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review by . March 09, 2012
Edgar Rice Burroughs is famous for literary creations that have inspired countless generations and given birth to numerous film and television projects. You would be hard-pressed to find anybody not familiar with Tarzan, one of Burrough's great series. John Carter of Mars is another one, and at long last has finally made it to the big screen.     The film is based on the first book of eleven, a series that began in 1914 and ran through 1964 when the last book was published posthumously. …
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Different planet, same contrived plot points
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George Lucas in his creation of STAR WARS, James Cameron in his creation of AVATAR, the creators of Buck Rogers, the creators of Flash Gordon, and countless other writers and film directors for almost a century owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to Edgar Rice Burroughs and his Barsoom Chronicles (beginning with A PRINCESS OF MARS, first published as a short story under a different title in 1912). Burroughs is best known for creating Tarzan. However, Burroughs dabbled in several different genres, …
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Wiki


John Carter is an upcoming 2012 action film featuring John Carter, the heroic protagonist of Edgar Rice Burroughs' 11-volume Barsoom series.[5] The film marks the centennial of the character's first appearance in 1912.

Former Confederate captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is mysteriously transported to Mars ("Barsoom") where he becomes part of a conflict between the various nations of the planet, whose leaders include Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) and Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins). Carter takes it upon himself to save Barsoom and its people from a growing threat.[5][6]

The film is the live-action debut of director/writer Andrew Stanton and is co-written by Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon. It is produced by Jim Morris, Colin Wilson, and Lindsey Collins, and scored by Michael Giacchino.[1][7][8]

Walt Disney Pictures is distributing the film; it will be released in the United States on March 9, 2012.[9][10][11] Filming began in November 2009 and principal photography spanned from January 2010 to July 2010.[12][13] This project marks the first time that Andrew Stanton has worked on a live-action film; his previous work includes the Pixar animated films Finding Nemo and WALL-E.[7][14] The film will be released in the Digital 3D and IMAX 3D formats.

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Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Studio: Walt Disney Studios

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