Saturday, March 10, 2012

Day 325 - John Carter

John Carter (2012) directed by Andrew Stanton

Let me start by saying John Carter has to be the most boring title for a movie ever. The guys at Disney couldn't think of something more clever or catchy then the main character's generic name? But I digress. At least the movie itself has more life to it than its namesake as it is your standard weekend movie popcorn fare. This is the second movie I've seen in the past year that blends western elements with sci-fi, the other being the mildy disappointing Cowboys & Aliens. Unlike that movie, John Carter kind of works because it is so absurd it makes sure to make a spectacle of itself ensuring that the audience will have some sort of fun watching it.

Indeed, this is one of the strangest action fantasy adventures I have seen. It thrusts a Civil War veteran into Mars which is in the midst of a civil war of its own. Despite the heavy sci-fi influences of aliens, floating aircrafts, teleporting machines and giant cities that can walk, the film plays out like a swords and sandals adventure. Despite the high tech weapons at hand everyone carries swords and fights like Spartans. John Carter spends most of his time shirtless in ancient Roman attire. Even the storyline is something straight out of a Greek myth, or at least a cross between Stargate, Star Wars and Clash of the Titans.

Without going into too much detail, John Carter suddenly finds himself on Mars where he is picked up by a local alien race with four arms and tusks called the Tharks. Because of his Earth muscles John Carter is able to jump to amazing heights in Mars's lower gravity making him seem like a super hero to them and is reluctantly adopted into their tribe. But the Thark are sort of outsiders to the civil war going on between two human races, Zodanga (bad guys) and Helium (good guys). Zodanga is headed by Sab Than who has acquired a powerful weapon that can destroy the whole planet. Helium is lead by Dejah Thoris, a beautiful princess. Naturally John Carter and Dejah Thoris have an affinity towards each other which leads him to fighting for the good guys. Oh, and behind the scenes are a clandestine godlike people who are pulling the strings to everything like in the Iliad.

It goes without saying the story is preposterous and overdone. It tries very hard to be an epic adventure, but comes out as a sort of cliched mess, but that's okay I suppose, as long as it satisfies a couple key components. Is there action? Is there adventure? Is there romance? Is there cool special effects? Is there moments of humor? Is it generally fun to watch? John Carter passes the test (barely) and by these standards is exactly what you'd expect out of it. The dialogue is very campy and can be cringe worthy but nothing too terrible. The CGI is decent but at times feels very artificial especially contrasted with the natural surroundings. The acting is quite poor. I honestly can't think of anything really constructive or critical to say about this film. Just look at the trailers and tell me that this movie can be anything better than decent? It's better than Cowboys & Aliens at least.

Grade: C+

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