Saturday, March 10, 2012

"John Carter": Ambitious, Flawed and Satisfying

Based on the first novel in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom series, Andrew Stanton's John Carter is a decent popcorn film that unfortunately had a LOT going for it. It pains me to say this, as I have anticipated this film since it was announced back in 2009 or so. When I heard that Andrew Stanton, the director of Pixar's wonderful Finding Nemo and WALL-E, was going to direct this science fiction epic, I was excited. I thought, since Stanton had already directed two brilliant films (one of which being a very good sci-fi tale) and this was his dream project, what could go wrong?

First of all, it's not a bad film. It's an entertaining film with good visuals, a decent storyline and lots of cool action scenes. This is not what makes a movie great, though. This is a film that wants to be an epic, a film that wants to tell a compelling story. Unfortunately, the rather stiff acting and convoluted storytelling hold it back from being anything remotely great. I have no clue what could've made this film an ambitious mess. Stanton knows how to tell a great story, or maybe he couldn't really get this story to work outside of Pixar. Either that, or the executives had him on a leash and didn't let him go "all out" with the story.

So the story and the rather disappointing screenplay hold the film back from being an epic, but it is partially saved by everything else. The storytelling is effective in the film's first act, but the second act is just one big mess. The filmmakers did a fine job with the period piece setting in the film's first twenty minutes or so. John Carter is a likable character, and his attempts at communicating with the Tharks on Barsoom early on are quite amusing. The visuals? Good. Although the visuals aren't anything groundbreaking, they still bring Barsoom to life. Highlights include the looks of the Tharks, the look of the different structures, the comic dog-like creature called the Woola and the giant white apes. The designs of the various ships in the film were also unique. Michael Giacchino's score was also good, as the man rarely disappoints.

It's just that the messy story and the acting sort of hold it back. The screenplay isn't anything spectacular, and I wasn't expecting it to be, but I felt that it did not work. For what it's worth, John Carter is action and thrills with a story that does work at times. You can feel some of the Pixar brilliance in this film, but I could only imagine what the film would've been like had it been an actual Pixar production. I have nothing but great respect for Andrew Stanton, and I understand this was his dream project, but unfortunately I felt it was an entertaining blockbuster that was trying so hard to be a great sci-fi epic. Something tells me that something was holding this film back, but I don't know thus I will not assume.

In conclusion, John Carter is definitely worth checking out and it seems like one of those love it or hate it films. I am in the middle ground here, but I still recommend it and hopefully it is somewhat of a success so if they go through with a sequel, all of the problems present in this film can be corrected. I can dream, can I?

C+, definitely not bad in my book, but it could've been something more.

Bonus - Trailer Recap
I saw this in IMAX 3D, and the theater was full (which surprised me), and we ended up getting a lot of trailers.

The Hunger Games - I never understood why studios showed trailers for their films, when the film is only a week or two away from opening and the commercials are everywhere, in theaters. Oh well, this film has always been a big "maybe" with me. I understand that the books are supposed to be really good, so I might give it a shot. This was the only trailer that was not in 3D since the film itself isn't in 3D. - Opens March 23rd 

Titanic 3D - I might go see this just for the experience, that's what the film really is, a grand experience. Not sure how the 3D will look, but I was impressed with what I saw in this trailer and I've seen this trailer before several films as of late. - Opens April 4th

Men in Black III - It looks like fun, hopefully it will be better than the second one. - Opens May 25th 

Frankenweenie - I already commented on this trailer in my review of Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, but I will say, I really want to see this. Looks brilliant. - Opens October 5th

Prometheus - Looks good, that's all I can say. I haven't really been following this one, but this is basically a sci-fi film from Ridley Scott that was originally going to be an Alien prequel. - Opens June 8th

Wrath of the Titans - I never saw the 2010 remake of Clash of the Titans, but it looks they're going all out with this sequel. - Opens March 30th

The Avengers - Can't really say anything that hasn't been said about this trailer. I can't wait to see this, it looks epic. - Opens May 4th


  1. Good review. Kitsch could have definitely been a little bit more charismatic but the flick still works due to amazing special effects and some really fun and exciting action. Sad thing is that this flick was made for $250 million and won’t make any of it back. Not a must-see by any means but still a good one to check out for the fun of it. Check out my review when you get the chance.

  2. Didn't they show the preview for Brave?

  3. @Ben, unfortunately they didn't have the trailer for "Brave", probably because will not be in any IMAX format.