There are probably going to be a lot of people going to the theater this weekend to see John Carter, who think this is a new thing. They’ll probably compare it to a multitude of movies they’ve seen over the years; all the lasers, aliens, and ships with heroes, quests, and princesses to save. The one thing they won’t know is that John Carter is one of the pulps – stories that inspired many of the science fiction and fantasy stories – that has graced the screen and page for close to century. For Andrew Stanton, in his first live action feature he might’ve done the job of making the next Star Wars with one of things that inspired Star Wars in the first place.
John Carter is told in flashback to his nephew Edgar (a nice way of working the creator of the character into the story). The grand adventure starts with Carter in the Arizona territory searching for gold. He is captured by the US Calvary and forced to join their ranks against the Native Americans. After being in a battle between the Calvary and the Apache, he escapes and ends up in a cave of gold. He then fights a mysterious robed man, and ends up teleported through space. He awakens in a foreign desert with enhanced abilities. He soon learns that he is not on earth anymore, but is, in fact, on Mars.
Andrew Stanton does a pretty good job of adapting the pulp novel’s sense of adventure and action, while still keeping it fun and watchable for a younger audience. Keeping with the sense of fantasy set in space, he also juggles well with the western influences inherent to the work. It also seems his extensive experience in animation helps in working with all of the computer-generated characters in the story as well as the effects used in the big set pieces throughout the whole picture.
Taylor Kitsch is pretty good at playing the hero, John Carter. He has a nice sense of strength and playfulness on screen as this action hero. There are moments where we are suppose to feel a sense of torture in Carter’s soul that really don’t come across well, but those are fleeting then it’s all back to adventure. Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris is a welcome surprise. Besides this movie, the character is sold mostly as a sexual image; and while Collins is attractive, her character is pretty cool as this smart scientist that can also handle a sword in a fight. The way she plays it makes the character like the Rachel Weiss’ “Evy” in The Mummy.
One thing to finally note is that the 3D is really not that impressive. Though well done, it really brings nothing to the overall experience of the film other than costing you more money. So far, John Carter might just be the start of the 2012 big budget Hollywood season. It has the all the things you want out of the big summertime release with adventure, a cool hero, an interesting love interest, and big-time effects.
Final Grade is a B