Saturday, March 10, 2012
Stay Classy Barsoom: A review of the film "John Carter"
A classic, fantasy adventure film is something of a dying breed in Hollywood, as every year more and more comic book super-heroes or flashy, speed-ramped combatants dominate the box office. Now I'm not seeking to vilify all of them, as I enjoy more than a few, but the sheer amount can become tiring and repetitious. Thankfully these trends have yet to make it to Mars, (or Barsoom as it is known to the locals) the setting of director Andrew Stanton's first live-action feature, John Carter.
Adapted from the story "A Princess of Mars" by Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Carter follows the titular character, a former Civil War soldier played by Taylor Kitsch, as he is transported to a strange land not his own and drawn into alien feuds he could never have imagined. A simple concept, by today's standards, but embracing that and reveling in the wonder and awe that can be found in such a tale, is just what makes this film so special.
Stanton, whose previous directing credits come from the much loved Pixar films WALL-E and Finding Nemo, once again utilizes his ability to take a story and make it an enchanting, fun, and visual spectacle for the big screen. Filling the barren, desert landscape with fantastical air ships, swashbuckling sword fights, and interesting creatures of all manner; the film hearkens back to a time when an adventure film sought to immerse you in it's world rather than just bombard you with the latest techniques everyone is copying (although it does have the posted-added 3D effect but I would hazard a guess that addition was Disney's choice.) Of course Stanton's vision isn't the only factor that breathes life in to the film, a great number of contributing factors help this movie to really shine. Good performances by all main actors, a fitting score by Michael Giacchino, and the fine source material provided by Burroughs are all worth mentioning.
The film also has a couple problems, but nothing that really ends one's enjoyment of it. Chief among these errors is the some of the film's dialogue. While there are a few good lines and many just fine ones, there are also quite a few that make a view want to roll their eyes out the back of their head. Terrible dialogue is nothing new to the genre, but it is something a bit more time on the script or at table reads could have weeded out. The other major annoyance I have with the film is it running just a bit too long. By the end one does want the film to keep going, which is a testament to how it plays overall, but there are a number of scenes that drag a bit and cutting them down to bring the film under the two hour mark would only enhance it's enjoyment.
Overall though, I really liked John Carter and give it 4 out of 5 stars. I also recommend you getting out there to see it this weekend if you have the time. Fans of classic, sci-fi/fantasy films and who want more of them in the coming years should be at the front of these lines, as initial reports don't predict this film doing well at the box office. So head out to your local theater now, and go see Andrew Stanton bring something new, but also something time-honored to the big screen.