Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs' have waited a long time for the big screen adaptation of Mars-traveling John Carter character. It's been 100 years since the opening installment of Barsoom series was published. But, the avid fanboys and curious newbies, who know nothing of the series will probably be united in their response : Mixed. 'John Carter' is long, convoluted and, intermittently exciting.
It's directed by Andrew Stanton, whose credits include "WALL-E" and "Finding Nemo." and produced by Disney. Somehow, despite that boatload of talent, the movie never really comes together. It feels like a mishmash of styles and other films. Disney's profitability for this fantasy sci-fi movie, looks like a pure fantasy.
PlotIt begins in New York City in 1881 with a framing device in which Burroughs himself (Daryl Sabara) is summoned to the estate of his uncle, John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), an adventurer who dies before Burroughs arrives. Carter left a fortune to his nephew, but also a diary that explains his greatest adventure.
A Confederate captain in the Civil War, Carter heads west looking for gold and finds mostly trouble. But he stumbles onto a cave that has all the gold he dreamed of and more -- much more. Thanks to an amulet, he is transported to Mars (which the inhabitants call Barsoom). It, too, is wracked by a civil war. He becomes the prisoner of the six-limbed, green-skinned, giant warrior Tharks, led (through motion-capture performances) by the benevolent Tars Tarkas (William Dafoe); his daughter, Sola (Samantha Morton); and the gruff Tal Hajus (Thomas Haden Church).
Meanwhile, the human sects from Helium and Zodanga are battling for control of the whole planet. Helium's Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) is being forced by her father (Ciaran Hinds) to marry Zodangan leader Sab Than (Dominic West) in hopes of achieving a truce. The devious Sab Than has other plans in mind, with some encouragement from Matai Shang ( Mark Strong), one of a trio of troublemaking, shape-shifting Therns. It might look like a complex plot, but once 'John Carter' arrives in Mars, everything happens in a predictable manner.
AnalysisA century ago, Burroughs’s imaginative world was unique; now, with movies like Starwars, Avatar, the movie looks very simple. Neither the writers nor Stanton have done anything to address that problem. As one of Pixar’s stars Stanton is a filmmaker with a visual style. But unlike Brad Bird, who directed by MI4, Stanton's skills as a computer animator don’t transfer easily to live-action filmmaking. The film looks good visually with better CGI and nice motion capture performance from William Dafoe. But whenever the fighting and visual effects stops and two people have to stand and talk, all the excitement goes out.
Kitsch’s performance isn’t particularly bad, but he doesn’t command the presence that he should, and sadly, no one else comes close, not even the usually reliable Mark Strong as the head Thern Matai Shang. Thankfully, there's the pleasingly goofy creature who becomes John Carter's animal companion. He's sort of a monster-dog hybrid: an overgrown dog with incredible speed and boundless enthusiasm. Had Stanton given the characters as much personality as he gave to the Barsoomian landscape, this would be a much different, and much better, movie. The 3-D technology used is not bad, but it doesn't enhance your movie watching experience.
John Carter gets the job done for a weekend movie in a multiplex, with its massive city and landscapes, but it will be forgotten soon before the next weekend.
John Carter - Imdb