Thursday, April 12, 2012

Review of John Carter

“John Carter” is a sci-fi adventure movie based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ epic 11-volume “Barsoom” series of novels. The books were on John Carter, a heroic character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1912.

Now you would think a character created 100 years ago would have a problem being translated to the modern era, right? If you did then you would be wrong!

“John Carter” is a kick-ass movie. Directed and written by Andrew Stanton, the movie is about John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), a former Confederate soldier in the Civil War who accidentally found himself transported to Mars due to an alien medallion.

Once on Mars, called Barsoom by the natives, Carter discovered that he is able to jump amazingly high and has great strength due to the planet's low gravity. However his new-found powers doesn’t prevent him from getting captured by a race of giant, four-armed Green Martians called Tharks. Under the order of their Jeddak (King), Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe), Carter is brought back the Tharks village.

Elsewhere on Barsoom, another race of Martians, the Red Martians, are in a civil war. The cities of Helium and Zodanga have been at each other throats for a thousand years and one side, the city of Zodanga is on the verge of victory. Sab Than (Dominic West), the Jeddak of Zodanga, is in possession of a powerful weapon called the "Ninth Ray".

Given to him by the Therns, a mysterious race from another planet, Sab Than is about to destroy Helium when he is ordered by the Therns to propose a cease-fire and bring an end to the conflict. To seal the alliance, Sab Than will marry the Princess of Helium Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins).

The defiant Princess escapes the political marriage and is rescued by Carter. From there, Carter and the Tharks got suck into the civil war between the 2 cities and Carter found himself unwillingly involved in a battle among alien races.

Embarking on a quest to find a way back home, Carter discovered more about the Ninth Ray and the planet of Barsoom. After several battles, Carter, the Tharks and the city of Helium emerged victorious and Carter decides to stay on Barsoom, throwing away the medallion that first bought him to the planet.

It was a silly mistake as the Thern leader Matai Shang (Mark Strong) seized this opportunity to attack Carter and banishes him back to Earth.

Now it seems that bashing “John Carter,” made by Disney for US$250 million, is the “in-thing” in Hollywood. The movie has been classified as a flop because it made US$200 million so far since its opening.

Yes, you read that right! The movie made US$200 million and it is still a “flop”. I don’t quite understand that. Even though it was made for US$250 million, US$200 million is still a lot of money so this movie could be the most successful “flop” in history.

Not only that; “John Carter” is a very good movie! It’s a stunning movie with great visuals, a solid story and some (surprisingly) good performances from the actors. Taylor Kitsch makes a strong protagonist, and showcase why he is touted as the next “hot” actor in Hollywood. Willem Dafoe also somehow managed to infuse his CGI character, Tars Tarkas, with a sense of nobility that makes Tarkas the best, most complex character in the movie.

I especially like the fact the movie don’t try to run from the source material (cough, Green Lantern, cough). The Tharks are supposed to be “noble savages” and the movie wasn’t shy about showing how savage they are. Also, the Barsoom books are in the pulp action adventure/sci-fi genre and that’s not actually an easy thing to pull off. To Andrew Stanton’s credit, he tried to have the same feel for the movie and on the most part, I thought he succeeded.

Of course there were a few low spots. The romance between Carter and Dejah wasn’t well fleshed out and the start of the movie was a little slow.

However on the whole, “John Carter” is still a bloody solid movie. It’s a slightly old-fashioned movie that will successfully transport you to an alien world where countless action adventure awaits. Don’t let the bad press fool you; watch this movie now!

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