SYNOPSIS: From Disney and Academy Award(R)-winning filmmaker Andrew Stanton (Best Animated Film, Wall-E, 2008) comes John Carter - a sweeping action-adventure set on the mysterious and exotic planet of Barsoom (Mars). Based on Edgar Rice Burroughs's classic novel, John Carter is a war-weary, former military captain who's inexplicably transported to Mars and reluctantly becomes embroiled in an epic conflict. It's a world on the brink of collapse, and Carter rediscovers his humanity when he realizes the survival of Barsoom and its people rests in his hands. Stunning special effects, great characters and villains -- and complete with extraordinary bonus features -- John Carter is a heroic and inspirational adventure that will thrill the entire family.
I dare say if Disney has taken the plunge a decade earlier to make “John Carter”, it wouldn’t have to write off a US$160 million operating loss. Then again, the movie version of the 1917 Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novel went through such a tumultuous journey that it qualifies as another separate tale to be told.
Helmed and co-written by Pixar alumni, Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, Wall-E), John Carter’s running time clocked in at around 132 minutes but the whole viewing experience seems to be twice of that. Much of the problem lies in an uneven pacing and uninspiring action sequences. Stanton might be an expert when it comes to CG animation, for his debut live-action, you can easily point out the glaring flaws even though the movie costs a whopping US$250 million to make.
The biggest fault of all lies in the protagonist, John Carter played by Taylor Kitsch (Battleship) Not that Kitsch is a poor actor mind you. John Carter is a fish-out-of-water character much like Jake Sullen in “Avatar”. Instead of Pandora, Carter is brought to mars following a mishap and ends up meeting some weird green creatures called Tharks and falling in love with a certain Princess of Helium (Lynn Collins). At this point, “John Carter” plays very much like “Avatar” except the latter is set in the future while the former in the American civil war era. While I’m not insinuating James Cameron taking liberties with the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic at least the man can tell an engaging tale filled with adrenalin filled action sequences. “John Carter” on the other hand brought nothing impressive or fresh to the table and our dear hero ends up leaping from one place to another without much of a goal except to settle some local dispute and marrying the girl he loves.
While Taylor Kitsch never raises the material to any level is surround by a competent cast with Samantha Morton (Minority Report), Thomas Haden Church (Sideways) and Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man) chipping in mo-cap performances as Tharks which explains you don’t see their faces on screen. Mark Strong (Green Lantern) unsurprisingly for the 150th times appears as a villain. And the casting list goes on with Ciaran Hinds (The Woman In Black), Dominic West (Johnny English Reborn), James Purefoy (V For Vendetta) and Bryan Cranston (Drive) taking on forgettable roles.
The production design on the whole is lush with plenty of exotic costumes on display. Kitsch’s character on the other hand is pathetically left clan in a tiny piece of loincloth. Poor guy must be feeling pretty cold beneath for the seven months shoot. The spaceships are nothing like you have seen probably they look liked they are built on bamboos or wood. Don’t ask where they got the materials from. There’s even a cute dog-like creature Woola and two gigantic white apes thrown in for some excitement. Yet Stanton somehow fails to crank up the magic amidst all the fantasy and visual parade. We know there’s a problem when George Lucas’ “Star Wars Episode II” has a higher rewatch value as the airborne and battleground sequences were executed with more flair.
Is “John Carter” that bad a movie? Honestly nope. It’s more or less a movie which you have seen before elsewhere. It has epic written all around just without much of an adventure to talk about. Ironically, the source material actually inspired movies such as “Star Wars” and “Avatar”.
100 Years in the Making is a too brief 10 minutes feature that chronicles the works and life of Edgar Rice Burroughs including archive footages and interviews with Andrew Stanton, Michael Chabon and Jon Favreau.
Director Andrew Stanton and producers Jim Morris and Lindsey Collins delivers an informative, entertaining commentary track that covers plenty of production aspects such as the casting, visual effects, design etc in Audio Commentary with Filmmakers.
“John Carter” DVD looks and sounds equally good. Images are brimming with sharpness and details. Dialogue and ambient sound effects are well-balanced and Michael Giacchino’s score is a pleasure to the ears.
DVD RATING :
Review by Linus Tee