Friday Review: John Carter

The most obvious of these weekly updates is your expected Friday film review. Here I will clearly review whatever film comes out tonight. I will review one a Friday and no more (I have other stuff to do, you know). Maybe in the future when I have time/more viewers I will expand it to two or three, but one’s alright for now.
I bet you’re all wondering (all two of you) what will come every Monday. You’ll just have to wait and see!

Without further notice, here is what I will call from now on my WGACIF (Who Gives A Crap? It’s Friday), basically because 1) it’s like TGIF but more dumb and 2) who cares, it’s the end of the week/your own opinion in the end. So, let’s get carefree and celebrate the end of the week with a good or terrible movie, for it’s time for

I will be including a terribly photoshopped banner for each day from now on, so get used to it. I can’t even see past this banner anymore. Those colours and lines are killing my eyes.

This week:

                                                                    John Carter
                                                                 Rating: 4.8/10 

I have a thing against Disney live action films. The people at Disney tend to put so much effort and love into their animated films, especially their hand drawn features and their Pixar digital films (there’s no excuse for garbage like Chicken Little). Their live action films just, for the most part, tend to fall short and be completely thoughtless. It’s bizarre how far on each side of the spectrum Disney can be, especially when they are so consistently great with their animated films. You’ll have a few live action successes here and there, like the two Narnia films (the third film wasn’t made by Disney) and the first Pirates of the Caribbean film (don’t get me started on the other ones), so why is there so much magic missing from the majority of their live action films? Most of them are complete trash that are made for no reason but to get money in the bank.  Films like Old Dogs and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice are beyond unwatchable, stupid and just plain insulting.

However, what made the release of John Carter somewhat interesting is the director behind it. Andrew Stanton is one of the few brilliant minds behind the majority of films Pixar has released, and he has directed Finding Nemo and Wall-E, arguably two of the best animated films of all time. John Carter is his live action debut , and if you remember just how exquisite the worlds were in Nemo and Wall-E, you too would be excited to see what he does with the extra terrestrial world John Carter takes place in.

the abominable snowman and his wife

He succeeds in making a captivating environment. The creatures that slump about are so well done, and the landscapes are probably the best part of the film. Visually, I don’t have many complaints. The action sequences are fairly exciting thanks to what’s on screen, how it’s presented, and how we can follow it (take notes, Michael Bay). However, the film still ends up being slightly underwhelming for a few particular reasons. The main reason is Taylor Kitsch, the actor who plays Carter himself. A role like Carter demands presence, panache, invulnerability and depth. Kitsch has none of these. Instead, Carter comes off as an insipid guy whose mother just got insulted at the local bar and he’s out to fight on the streets. The stakes do not seem high enough whatsoever, and Carter seems less like a leader and more like the only guy puerile enough to make an act based on instinct. There doesn’t seem to be any thought put into anything he does. Sure, whatever actions he takes on screen seem planned out, but that’s because of the script and not the performance. If the script wasn’t so by-the-numbers, I’m sure Kitsch would have made Carter force everyone to stab each other with harpoons as it may stop the war between the nations some how.

"Hang on! I just remembered I am not Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia"

There’s the other problem: The script. It’s your usual, uninspired story about feuding nations and saving the world (in this case, it’s Mars, or, erm, Barsoom apparently). From here on in, we are inundated with a slew of science fiction bullshit. See, here is the problem. Science Fiction is a tricky genre because so much is created that we, the viewer, have no idea about. It is up to the film to help us understand. In Blade Runner, we understood that there were “perfect” androids that had to be hunted and how the world worked. In John Carter, I just nodded and said “to hell with it, maybe after they stop talking there will be some more cool action”. And cool action there was. However, cool action does not help a messy concept and a lacking plot proceed. I think part of the problem is the source material. John Carter is adapted from a part of a series from almost a hundred years ago called the Barsoom series. John Carter is based on the first book A Princess of Mars (the princess is played by Lynn Collins in the film). With the written stories, there must have been a huge world created, considering the amount of books in the series. Also, the fact that this film is adapted from a book should say a lot. Books take the time to create worlds for us, and if we don’t understand, we can go back and re read what we have just read. With films, you can’t necessarily do that. Also, John Carter was only just over two hours, meaning there was probably a large portion of the book that wasn’t included.

Oh no! I hate when zero gravity takes my shirt off, too.

So the story is boring and a task to follow or even understand and the lead is a bore, is this “epic” worth the watch? It depends. If you want to watch a mindless film just for some great visuals and exciting action, you can watch this. I think you’re better off with the two Narnia films, though, where a goddamn lion was more of a leader than John Carter and the story was engaging. To be fair, this was a good effort for Stanton’s directorial debut, and you can see that everyone at least tried. I may not think Kitsch is a good actor, but he always tries. In The Bang Bang Club, where he was also fairly bad, he at least tried to mimic the South African accent and play the role required, and he tries here but falls short. Very, very short. Still, you can’t be mad at someone for trying, right?

I think if there was some more time given to make this film and more time in the film itself,  it may have been a bit better. The story gets a D but the cinematography and effects get at least a B+. If you are curious, then by all means go ahead and watch this. Plus, Willem Dafoe, Bryan Cranston and Dominic West have roles in this film, and that never hurts to check out.

 

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