Saturday, March 24, 2012

John Carter...a spectacular disaster...

I am not a typically fussy viewer when it comes to science fiction, but I have to say "John Carter" blew it in nearly every way possible. This was especially disappointing because I've been a Taylor Kitsch fan since first encountering him on "Friday Night Lights." Many great actors have survived similar box office crashes, so here's hoping he comes out on top...and a good place to do that would be in his next big-budget flick "Battleship."

Lynn Collins (The Princess of Mars) was beautiful and did a fine job with what she had, but no matter how well you act it's just hard to get past dumb lines and even dumber settings. It was truly amazing how the makeup people presented her as a bronze goddess when she is in reality so pale...but the look was a good one. That's one positive note, I guess.

Back to "John Carter" the flick and all the other points that just plain didn't work. First, let's talk about plot. I, like many middle-age sci-fi readers grew up on "John Carter of Mars." I haven't had one of those slim paperbacks in my hands in over 30 years, however I'd be the first to admit they were fun romps that didn't take themselves too seriously--HOWEVER, there are limits to how many holes you can leave in a plot and still claim it resembles a story. This big screen "John Carter" adaptation has more story and logic holes than a soccer net. Suffice it to say that not even Edgar Rice Burroughs on a bad day would have let this clunker leave his typewriter. I don't want to give away too much, but how about watching John literally slaughtering huge multi-limbed martians by the hundreds, if not the thousands, but a few scenes before and few scenes after he's having a tough time handling just a few of the same breed of creatures. Then there's the little logic issue about how he can snap thick steel chains and rip rocks in half, even though lower gravity can't explain those superhuman feats. While we're discussing it, I also tend to wonder why his flesh seems mostly immune to dizzying impacts with everything from steel to stone to...well, you get the picture. Yes, I know you fall slower in low gravity (which you couldn't tell from John's Hulk-like, high velocity landings) but he not only fell down, he was thrown, swung and hurled in every possible direction all throughout the film...but never with more than a few scratches and dust marring his pale skin.

I've never been a fan of Victorian anachronistic technology, so it's no surprise that I had faint appreciation for the gauze and frame flutter-bug aircraft that often filled the "John Carter" screen, but my absolute central peeve had to do with John Carter's nonsensical reaction to the low gravity environment on Mars. Of course, we all know that was how the author explained the Earthling's super strength (he grew up in high Earth gravity and therefore had dense powerful muscle when in Mars' comparitively low gravity) but none of that provides any clue as to why all the leaping in the movie shows John mostly flying face-forward as though his forehead were weighted with lead. When he first arrives on the red planet (which isn't all that red), he keeps falling forward and can barely seem to crawl without his bangs dragging in the sand. It seems to me that he should have been fighting to stay on the ground, but instead in those opening scenes he looked as though he was struggling to get up out of the sand. Then, every time he leapt, the director may as well have left the cables visible in the scene because the flying movements projected the presense of wires to the point it was painful to watch. It almost felt like a 1930s adventure scene shot on the cheap outside of an early Hollywood studio. Not a single leap seemed believable in any human movement, laws of physics sort of way.

Probably one of the biggest crimes with this picture, however, was how the movie dragged and dragged and dragged. It's no wonder the budget tanked any chance of profitability. It truly felt as though the screen-writer and director couldn't figure out how to end this debacle, so they just kept filming, maybe hoping the equipment would break down and make the decision for them.

I know I haven't given a lot of specifics about the story and characters here, but it's mostly because none of that matters with the many flaws constantly grinding at any reasonable viewer's sense of acceptance. I just wish Disney had called me before they began production, because for a few hundred bucks I would happily have reviewed their plans and scrapped this catastrophe before it ever went into production.

I regret to say that "John Carter" barely registers one star on my five star scale :-(


  1. My wife saw the movie and didn't think too much of it.

  2. Richard, I really wanted to like this movie, but unfortunately your wife was right. 'Hope you have a great weekend!

  3. I'm still upset by the stupidity of the title. The alleged reasoning was that no female would see a movie with the word "Mars" in the title, and no male would see a movie with "Princess." Therefore "John Carter" will really pack 'em in.

    Wow. I'd think just the opposite. "Princess of Mars" is an awesome title for the exact opposite reasoning stated above. Sounds cool to everyone.

    I haven't seen this movie yet because any organization that would make that mistake with the title aren't too likely to deliver a very good film. I'll check it out on a cable.

  4. Stephen, I really believe a big part of the problem is that they didn't move this story to a different planet. We all know Mars isn't populated so wouldn't it have been better to make it an alternate dimension or something? You are, of course, right about the title. They offered nothing for a previewer to hold onto. John Carter doesn't have an inherent "concept" attached to it. I'd say they've taken a pretty good steel toe to the teeth with this learning curve, however, so maybe they'll learn something. What happend was with a Pixar vet at the helm, the studio truly believed he could do no wrong. Any decision was a good decision. Guess not.


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