Monday, March 12, 2012

John Carter

by Reymundo Salao

JOHN CARTER (it’s also entitled JOHN CARTER FROM MARS) is the story adapted from the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom book series; about a Civil War soldier named John Carter who found himself teleported into another world where conflicts are stirring, and he ends up being the hero that seeks to restore peace on the planet.

Everything that you saw from the JOHN CARTER movie looks like a mash-up of various different carbon-copies of things you already saw in other sci-fi movies. Even in the trailers, JOHN CARTER looks like it was a montage of different sci-fi movies; nothing in it stands out to be unique or interesting.

The main character John Carter himself was a character that was not fleshed out properly. He had nothing much to offer to make him impressive. He had such a blank look, that even though his character does some brilliant things over the course of the story’s progression, the way he performs it makes him still look un-brilliant. It’s as if he was an idiot trying to act clever. Taylor Kitsch, who played Carter, looked like he was just acting out as a fantasy magazine model than a hero fighting bad guys on Mars.

The setting and action sequences looked like one of the atrocious “Star Wars” prequels, the feel of the story was very much “Avatar” and the love story was exactly like one of those idiotic Walt Disney princess love stories. Oh right, this IS a Disney movie. And Disney has such an expertise in the field of shallow and superficial definitions of love. In the end, the love story stood out as just annoying and made the characters less appealing.

The movie had a subplot that was confusing and did not satisfy me enough. It was one of those rare moments that I felt like I had grown old and could not catch up with understanding its sci-fi subplot. And then you realize later that it really was the film’s fault. The issue between the main villain and the princess, and the villain’s motivations were not entirely explained to the point of satisfaction. The main villain (and his own similar kind) was supposed to be a mystery. We get that. The film initiated to make them interesting at one point, and then quickly dropped the ball. Their appeal was immediately reduced to ‘cardboard villain’ not even Mark Strong’s acting can make them cool enough.

If I was going to redeem “John Carter” of its negative points, it would be by saying that the source material is old and had served as source material for one too many sci-fi movies that had already graced the silver screen. But surely, a simple storyline can be remedied by well-made directorial execution, better actors and actresses, and marvelous visuals. A production that has the backing of a gigantic company (Walt Disney) can easily fix any little misstep, and has little excuse of being lousy.

The few good things I loved about the movie were the alien race known as the Tharks. Anything that had the Tharks around were good (unfortunately not good enough to save the entire movie). And then there’s also that fast-running alien “dog” which became John Carter’s pet. It is those elements that has kept the movie from being entirely bad.

After a while the film became an exercise in enduring the blandness, hoping something interesting comes around, so much so that it felt like watching the Star Wars prequel “Phantom Menace” all over again, or the similarly bland “Prince of Persia” movie which was also produced by Walt Disney. This one sure looks like another failure to create a movie franchise goldmine just like what “The Pirates of the Caribbean” series did for Disney. The box office has already begun looking pretty ugly for this movie. We may never see the further adventures of John Carter.

This movie is nothing more than maybe eye candy for girls who just want to drool all over the movie’s hero, or maybe just a passing fancy for those who are merely looking for fantasy eye candy in theaters this week. But aside from those, I could only recommend this movie if you watch it on DVD or just as something on one of those cable TV movie channels. I would not recommend a friend to spend their money on this one. I rate this with a subtle “thumbs down”

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