Friday, March 30, 2012


JOHN CARTER starring Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins etc

If there's a movie that doesn't deserve its current critical pan it's JOHN CARTER. I've seen so many highly praised films that left me going "meh" that I'm officially jaded by critics and clueless audiences. I mean, how can this "bomb" while the TRANSFORMERS films or schlocky Stephen Sommers films or the woeful remake of CLASH OF THE TITANS are box office hits? The world is truly bizarre. Even if I hadn't liked it and had this been a humongous hit, I still wouldn't have dispised it because all the creativity and money are all there on screen. It's eye filling. The fact that something as "copy/paste lazy" as the CLASH OF THE TITANS remake made 600 million dollars does make it harder for me to like it. 

Is JOHN CARTER great? Not really but it's not even to being the massive disaster it's being reported as. The story is weak, it's sorta all over the map, unwieldy.  It goes from here to there like one of Carter's jumps. The assumptions within the storyline are huge and might be one of the reasons why it hasn't connected with audiences. The introduction is way too long. Something like 30 minutes. It could have easily been 10 or 15 minutes. Once on Mars, we're introduced to a myriad of characters and people, none of which gel together (but I guess that's the point). The 4 armed Martians sometimes remind me of Jar Jar Binks. I stress the word sometimes. My attention started drifting when the film spent too much time on them.

Things happen and our Hero jumps to the occasion (literally) doing things as if he's been doing those things for a long time. I'm like "no." These scenes show me how the story lacks urgency: John does things, putting his life in danger even if there's no reason for him to do so. All of this could have been resolved easily with a sense of levity but as much as tries to be whimsical (and it tries), the seriousness always quells the fun stuff.

In one scene they throw in 5 or 6 cliches in a span of a few minutes. I love cliches but that's too much. The cliches are endless: branding, chained to a rock, etc. One of the cliches is the bad guy transforming into the likeness of the Hero, or in this case Heroine. Straight out of GOLIATH AND THE VAMPIRES or TRIUMPH OF HERCULES. 

Many of the humorous scenes fall flat. In one scene, when the fake Princess is running away the real Princess who then yells to Carter "I'm running away!" A real groaner. 

The dialogue is one cliche after another.  "It's a trap." "Carter!" "Who is that?" "History will follow its course." With good actors, cliched dialogue can be less groaners but as good as the cast is (and it's good) they often can't elevate above the dialogue.

It introduces storylines or plotlines that are never fully explored. One of the major plot point is about the Princess having to marry the bad guys in order to bring peace in Barsoom. I'm like "No!" From ADVENTURES OF MARCO POLO starring Gary Cooper made 74 years ago to a number of films from the PEPLUM explosion to FLASH GORDON, building an entire story on when or if the woman, usually a Princess, will marry the villain, is OVERDONE, not interesting and anti-climatic. When will they retire the forced wedding plot-line?

Costume fail!

Filmed mostly on location (yeah) on actual celluloid, not digital (double yeah) JOHN CARTER looks, feels like an old school epic. With this aspect alone, it's a million times better than the STAR WARS prequels or the recent IMMORTALS. Unfortunately, the one aspect that the film almost fails entirely are the costumes. They look cheap, doubly so with the tacky fur shoulder pads. I *really* hate those fur shoulder pads. The costume looked like they came straight out of 1980s Italian Sword & Sorcery flick starring Pietro Torissi or Miles O'Keeffe. Was ATOR the inspiration?

Like the film the special effects are all over the map. Some scenes are stunning will others are simply too obvious or not well thought out. When Carter jumps around in the location scenes, it's obvious Taylor Kitsch is strapped to wires, which have been digitally erased. 

Here's a quick rundown of what's good and not too good:


- Truly grand scale
- Robust soundtrack
- Great cast of mostly British actors
- Big action sequences
- Location filming
- Filmed with 35mm
- When the fx are good, they're stunning


- Terrible, cheap looking costumes, the film's weakest point
- Dialogue falls flat (second weakest point)
- Too many cliches (and I'm a fan of cliches)
- Introduction is too long
- A forced wedding..again?
- Some names are terrible. Helium?
- When the fx are bad, they're bad (jumping scenes with wires are obvious)

So in conclusion: aside from the terribly overdone wedding plotline, the endless number of cliffhanger/rescue-the-princess-in-the-nick-of-time moments, the unevenness of it all, I still give this cosmic PEPLUM 8 stars simply for the sheer scope & physicality of the endeavour. It's truly eye-filling. 

It will definitely become a HUGE cult favourite in the home market. 

Rating: 8 out of 10

uploaded to the FEATURED FILM page


Kike said...

Great review. I am agree in everything except the weeding thing. I think it is a cool, classic plot device.

Kike said...

And I loved the THARKS too! Much more than that terrible blue cats from "Avatar"...

Steven Lester said...

The story line ended stupidly as well. A plot hole wider than the Grand Canyon. Okay, he has spent years "looking" for another of those transporting doodads, kills a bad guy who just pops out of nowhere at the most opportune time, and then lays on his bed and travels back to mars, although the princess, who is probably a queen by now because it has been so long that her Dad has died, has aged, but he hasn't, in the least, apparently. There's not one gray hair on his head, no wrinkles, he is still as fit and well-built as ever. Something tells me that when they do meet over on mars their relationship is going to need a lot of adjustment.

Who writes this stuff? Don't they see these mistakes?

abdul666 said...

Teleportation can imply time travel: in Akers' series "Dray Prescot on Kregen under the Suns of Scorpio" (the best Not-Barsoomian cycle, better than the original imho), the hero is periodically sent back to Earth, stays there several years, but returns on Kregen at most a few days after he left (or even years before he left: at times several Dray Prescots are swashbuckling on different continents of Kregen).

abdul666 said...

"when they do meet over on mars their relationship is going to need a lot of adjustment."
Well, John Carter was already for a big surprise when some very sensitive part of his anatomy met for the first time Dejah Thoris' eggshell laying apparatus :-)

Indeed, being egg-laying mammals like our platypus, Red Martians are probably Monotremes: Human - Red Martian relationship indeed need a lot of adjustment!

Anonymous said...

Remember that 'John Carter' is based on the novels written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. 'A Princess of Mars' was published in 1912! The names, the forced weddings and parts of the costumes were directly taken from the novels.
Parts of the costumes?
Yes, because in 'A Princess of Mars' it was said that clothing is unknown on Barsoom, thus all(!) characters were nude.
And a commentator complained that there is a huge plot hole because the characters did not age. But this is no plot hole. They all (including John Carter) really do not age in the novels. You do not die of old age on Barsoom, you are either killed or travelling down the River Iss (where you await a much crueler fate, but you do not know that).
Remember that 'A Princess of Mars' was the first its genre (Sword & Planet) and that it took 80 years to produce a film-version.