GalacticaBBS: "John Carter of Mars" is an uneven, but ultimately satisfying first live-action effort from Pixar. - GalacticaBBS

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"John Carter of Mars" is an uneven, but ultimately satisfying first live-action effort from Pixar.

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Decided to go on a 'me-date' this morning; saw "John Carter of Mars" at my local AMC theatre (and against my better judgment, I saw it in dreaded 'up-converted' 3D).

And to quote Spock, when sampling McCoy's beans in "Star Trek V"...
Posted Image "Hmm... surprisingly good."
*******SPOILERS!! SPOILERS!! SPOILERS!!********
For those not in the know, "John Carter" is based on the first in a series of books written by author Edgar Rice Burroughs 100 years ago (exactly, in fact; "Princess of Mars", the first book, was published in 1912). It's the tale of a Confederate (southern) Civil War cavalryman Capt. John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) in search of treasure who is unexpectedly whisked away to the planet Mars ('Barsoom' as it is known to it's natives). He befriends (after initial mistrust) a six-armed, green native named Tars Tarkas (memorably voiced by Willem DaFoe). He eventually falls in love with Dejah Thoris, princess of the city of Helium (Lynn Collins) which is at war with other humanoids on the planet who are being manipulated by demi-god puppetmasters (somewhat reminiscent of 2010's "The Adjustment Bureau").

John Carter is sort of a 'superman in reverse'; being from earth, he finds he is stronger and can jump higher in the lesser martian gravity. And in true Han Solo fashion, lovable rogue Carter eventually rises to the role of savior of the planet. It's the book series that inspired both the original "Buck Rogers" and "Flash Gordon" comic strips; not to mention "Star Wars" and SO MANY others since (the Geonosis arena sequence in "SW: Attack of the Clones" is a direct homage to a scene in this movie; straight from the book). One can even see small traces of Frank Herbert's "Dune" saga in it's DNA. So despite the WAVES of information about both Barsoom and the story that flow over the audience, the story is ridiculously quaint and simple: warrior from Earth goes to Mars, becomes a champion, falls in love with a princess, saves her people. Easy peasy. Now, onto the movie AS a movie...

First; an upfront warning; the movie is somewhat long (2 hrs and change) and it takes a while to really get cooking, but I was surprised by the end how much I ultimately enjoyed it. The characters take a long while to grow on you as well, but they eventually do; and they are well-acted to boot. Kitsch (despite an unfortunate name) channels his inner Han Solo, and Lynn Collins is so beautiful it's insane. And since it was written exactly one century ago, it's allowed (and TAKES) much poetic license with Mars the planet. As someone who's studied Mars for much of my life (as both amateur astronomer and Planetary Society member), you REALLY have to just check your modern knowledge of the planet at the door (no hyper-thin CO2 air, no deadly UV radiation, etc) and just surrender to the fantasy. Many grains of salt required.

The story is, as evidenced from the synopsis above, very old-fashioned and downright quaint (in a good way), but it's still resonates and hits many of the right buttons partly because of the wise decision to do it as a 19th century period piece (SyFy channel attempted a modern day retelling a few years back.... it was, predictably, a cheap, ugly, little disaster). Some of the action sequences of the film are surprisingly inventive and well-executed. This marks CGI-cartoon giant Pixar's first live-action movie; and you can tell by the total photorealism of the CGI characters). The light ships with their solar sails unfurled are, at once awesome and deadly, and a bit steampunk and whimsical as well. The post-production added 3D effect was kind of 'meh' (nowhere near as good as a native 3D movie like "Avatar" or "Hugo"), but it was decent. You could easily enjoy it in 2D, no problem (in fact, during a couple scenes, I'd close one eye and see it in 2D... almost no difference, really). And I also liked the way the film used a young Edgar Rice Burroughs in a neat little framing story/device that bookends the tale with elements of non-fiction. John Carter is not merely a fictional character in Burrough's books; he is now Burrough's actual uncle, whose diary tells the story in flashback. In that way, "John Carter" kind of reminded me of "Time After Time" (1979) which had author HG Wells using his 'real' time machine (which is a prototype precursor to his eventual novel) to stop Jack the Ripper. Using young Edgar Rice Burroughs to 'bookend' the story of the movie creates a similar reality/fantasy 'blurring' effect. Well done.
;)

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So despite uneven pacing, and a slightly overlong running time (which, in a weird way, also adds to it's 'epic' vibe), there is much to enjoy and love about "John Carter of Mars" if you're patient and allow yourself to be swept away by the adventure. It's the granddaddy that inspired them all. Now, god knows I'm the nastiest critic on GBBS (especially when it comes to entertainment), but as the credits started to roll? A well-earned smile crept across my face....
:D

What made it even better? There was almost NO ONE else in the theatre (just myself and maybe 3 or 4 very quiet older guys like myself; we old folks don't make a lot of noise... we're that much closer to the grave :P ). I had some good snacks (my low-cal berry granola crunchy thingies and orange juice; my theatre has 'healthy option' snackage as well) and topping it all off? I scored two free John Carter posters in the lobby for free (a sad advantage of seeing a movie that isn't doing well; lots of leftover free swag). But it all helped to cap off a very (unexpectedly) enjoyable morning matinee...
:thumbup:

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This (above) is the design of the free poster(s) I scored in the lobby. Thank you, AMC Theatres... :thumbsup: :cylonclap:

4 Comments On This Entry

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Captain Taurus Icon

16 March 2012 - 11:48 PM
See! Told you that you would enjoy it! Say Captain Taurus was right! I may not be the nastiest critic on GBBS but a lot of the time my reviews are bang on! So, I am glad you got a lot out of the movie! Saves me from doing a blog on it! LOL.
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obsolete toaster Icon

17 March 2012 - 12:02 AM
Posted Image "You were right. Tell your sister.... you were riiiiight."

(OT closes his eyes and croaks). :P


I read the first JC book a LOOOONG time ago (middle school, I think). Frankly, it's not a great book but it did inspire a lot of people (including Carl Sagan and Ray Bradbury), and I gotta say, after a long 'warming up' period (about 30-40 minutes) I wound up really enjoying the movie.
:thumbup:
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p0is0n0us Icon

08 June 2012 - 01:39 PM
I enjoyed JC. As with all the reviews I've read about this movie I agree that the plot is uneven but overall I really enjoyed the movie. It was visually stunning and overall a good action move.

I feel bad that it tanked, this franchaise could of been one of the greats if handled correctly. Maybe next time Disney/Pixar can a different director since most of the rage is pointed at Andrew Stanton.
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obsolete toaster Icon

15 June 2012 - 10:20 AM

p0is0n0us, on 08 June 2012 - 11:39 AM, said:

I enjoyed JC. As with all the reviews I've read about this movie I agree that the plot is uneven but overall I really enjoyed the movie. It was visually stunning and overall a good action move.

I feel bad that it tanked, this franchaise could of been one of the greats if handled correctly. Maybe next time Disney/Pixar can a different director since most of the rage is pointed at Andrew Stanton.

Glad you liked it, P! That makes.... three of us (you, CT and I). :D

I bought the DVD last week and I can't even get Mrs T to watch it (and she LOVES Pixar movies...). Sad. I need to work on my mind-trick powers... :P
And Andrew Stanton is the guy that gave the world "Finding Nemo" "The Incredibles", "Toy Story (the trilogy)", and "Ratatouille." I don't think there's any fault with the director, really. It sounds like the studio had an axe to grind about his going over-budget (WAY over budget) and their heated disagreements over marketing (I understand Stanton was NOT pleased when Disney cut "From Mars" from the title. "John Carter" sounds like a movie about a labor union organizer). Disney knew it would recoup it's costs for "JC" with "The Avengers" anyway (and they were right), so they 'punished' Stanton by marketing the movie in a crappy month (March), with almost NO publicity (I rarely hear the names "Pixar" or "Disney" associated with the movie), and virtually no support (their firing of their own exec was their sacrificial lamb to appease the shareholders).

This may be the first big budget potential blockbuster (in content, if not box office) that died from office politics... :cylonnono: :doh:
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