Wednesday, January 16, 2013

John Carter

Directed by Andrew Stanton.

2012. Rated PG-13, 132 minutes.

Lynn Collins
Samantha Morton
Dominic West
James Purefoy
Polly Walker
Daryl Sabara

Civil War vet John Carter (Kitsch) spends all of his time searching for a fabled cave full of gold. The Confederate Army wants to press him back into service. They capture John, he runs away, they give chase and start a little skirmish with some Native Americans who happen to be in the way. Our hero runs some more and practically falls into the cave he seeks. The only problem is there’s a strange looking dude already there. He and John get into it and bada-boom, bada-bing, John winds up on Mars, here called Barsoom, trying to save the planet from a budding tyrant who is getting some special help. Why yes, there is a pretty girl involved. Her name is Dejah Thoris (Collins). She’s a princess being forced by her father to marry the bad guy as a means of potentially saving their empire. You see, the king doesn’t watch movies and doesn’t know that these sorts of arrangements never work out the way you’d like. Oh, one other thing, while on Mars John can leap tall buildings in a single bound. Almost.

Almost is a good word to describe the movie as a whole. By almost, I mean it’s almost good. Visually, it is quite the treat. Narratively, it is not. Once our hero gets to Mars we get eyefuls of interesting creatures and scenes of swashbuckling that feel simultaneously futuristic and primitive. The action comes often enough, usually in the form of chase scenes, highlighting the things John Carter does well. It’s between those scenes where the issues lie.

The story itself suffers from over-familiarity. It’s strictly paint-by-numbers with no deviation from the beaten path. From the moment John reaches Mars his next step always feels pre-ordained. In short, we’ve seen this many times before. You know the drill: escape here, decide to help the natives there, realize you’re in love with the princess here, and so on. In fact, it too closely follows the template set by Avatar, sans the “go green” agenda. That movie has many of the same flaws (awful dialogue, forced love story, bloated length, etc) but is even more of a spectacle. Try as it might, JC never achieves the grandeur of Avatar making its flaws even more of factor.

For a light-hearted, kiddie-fied action flick JC isn’t really a terrible choice. It’s fairly fun and the two hours go by pretty quickly. It is likely to be a forgettable crowd pleaser. Sitting through it is pleasant enough. However, by time the credits roll, you’d be hard-pressed to differentiate it from any other movie where a stranger in strange land does what such heroes do.

MY SCORE: 5.5/10

No comments:

Post a Comment