John Carter – Movie Review
I won’t delve into the philosophy behind Mark Strong’s character since his motives for villainy will spoil some of the story, but just rest assured that although he may seem like a weak villain for most of the film, just wait until near the end to make some serious judgments. Surprisingly, the CGI characters actually have the most personality than any of the humans, Martian or not, in the story. Tars Tarkas has some genuinely funny lines and is a likeable ally to John Carter, his daughter Mola is enjoyable as well, but the true scene-stealer is what John refers to as a “monster, dog… thing.” Honestly, this little alien of a dog is perhaps the best new Disney character since we were introduced to Pascal and Maximus in Tangled. One last thing: as I had said earlier on, there are definitely some ridiculous lines of dialogue in the screenplay, but Andrew Stanton did still manage to apply his innate sense of subtle yet effective humor into the story. Thus, John Carter is not only full of great action set pieces, a sense of wonderment and adventure, but there are definitely plenty of laughs to be had as well (especially in the first scene in which John Carter is transported to Barsoom and discover his new abilities).
As you might expect from a film like this, the acting is certainly a mixed bag. Taylor Kitsch does his job well in his tough guy performance, although even in some of the film’s funnier moments he remains rather stone-faced (a male Kristen Stewart, anyone?) Nonetheless, when playing a character such as a John Carter, I don’t suppose one needs to have expressions like Jim Carrey. Lynn Collins is decent as Dejah, and all around is either solid or simply going through their performances because no one is exactly BAD, but none of the acting work here is really great either, except for maybe Kitsch just since he seems like a natural fit for the character. As I had said earlier though, the characters with the most personality are surprisingly the ones that were digitally created. I’m sure the Tharks were animated via motion capture performances, and if so that would very much make sense since they are very expressive and emotional characters. Oh, and their voice actors (Willem Dafoe and Thomas Haden Church)? AWESOME.
And now we get to the part of John Carter this is perhaps the delicious icing on the cake. If John Carter does not get nominated for Best Visual Effects at the Academy Awards next year, I’ll be shocked, because this film looks absolutely astounding. The cinematography can mess with the audience’s view of the action at times due to occasional hyperspeed editing, but even so many of the shots are hauntingly beautiful looks at a world similar in looks to Northern Arizona and Southern Utah. Having lived in Arizona for my entire life, John Carter felt a little bit at home to me since I have often driven through desert environments similar to that of Barsoom. Otherwise, the digital effects of John Carter are amazing, since they work in a similar way that Avatar did by immersing the audience into a world different from our own. The Tharks are animated well (for of course, their emotion is carried through their animation), the vistas are beautiful, and its quite a sight to see the Barsoomian vessels flying through the sky and many other similar things to that. When viewing John Carter, it becomes easy to see that Andrew Stanton and his production team had a fully realized vision of what their version of Barsoom would be like, because this film’s production design truly is staggering, and the overall look of the film is reminiscent of classic westerns and adventure films (in an interview with Andrew Stanton on a podcast called Filmspotting, he did cite Lawrence of Arabia as his main cinematic influence). Sound design is pretty great as well, and when viewing the film in IMAX or even just any format in a theater, your ears will definitely have a treat. Michael Giacchino is a frequent collaborator with Pixar filmmakers, but this is his first time working on an Andrew Stanton film, and the result is quite an immersive musical score. Giacchino definitely had to compose one of his most epic scores to date for a film of this scale, and he pulled that off meticulously, for it does well to immerse one into the world of Barsoom much like the visual effects do.
I have to admit that John Carter is not exactly a great film. Some of the acting and writing is uneven, the story can be rather confusing for much of its runtime, and Disney’s failure at marketing this film as a book adaptation has perhaps ruined its chance at being a box office success. Even so, I enjoyed this film much more than I thought I would. Yeah, I was skeptical, but it seems that no Pixar filmmaker could do me wrong since I was well immersed into this classic story of adventure and civil war. That’s not to say that John Carter is a film that everyone will have fun with though, because this movie’s narrative flaws will be a great annoyance to a lot of people. On the other hand, if you’re looking for some good, popcorn flick fun in the middle of March, John Carter does the job. It looks and sounds fantastic, and at least John Carter is a dumb action flick with heart that only a Pixar filmmaker can provide. Just like John Carter became a lot soul on Mars, it’s worth becoming lost in an action movie like this everyone once in a while, so why not? John Carter is the kind of film that faces that “love it or hate it” situation. If you think that only story and dialogue is important, this might be an iffy choice, but the cool plotline, incredible production values and solid performances all around make this a fun, escapist type of action movie.
[easyreview title=”John Carter – Final Score” cat1title=”Summary” cat1detail=”John Carter is the kind of film that faces that ‘love it or hate it’ situation. If you think that only story and dialogue is important, John Carter might be an iffy choice. However, the cool storyline, incredible production values and solid performances all around make this a fun, escapist type of action movie.” cat1rating=”3.5″ summary=”3.5/5 Good”]