Sunday, March 4, 2012

JOHN CARTER ★ ★ ★ ★1/2


So who is ‘John Carter’??? From the film trailer, he seemed to be a very handsome, shirtless guy, leaping around amongst four armed creatures on Mars. 
‘John Carter’ is Edgar Rice Burroughs—the Tarzan author’s—literary hero, who sprung from a serialised 1912 story entitled “Under the Moons of Mars”, which was later published in 1917 as the novel, “A Princess of Mars”
Over the decades, Burroughs continued to write many popular books and serials on the adventures of ‘John Carter’ on Barsoom—Mars’ fictional name.
Science fiction writers Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury have all credited ‘John Carter’ as inspiration for their own work.  James Cameron cited the ‘John Carter’ books as an influence on his epic science-fiction film, AVATAR, whilst George Lucas credits ‘Carter’ with inspiring the STAR WARS movies. The list of fans goes on, including Carl Sagan, Michael Crichton and more. 
So on ‘John Carter’s’ one hundredth anniversary, Disney Studios has decided to treat us, for the price of a movie ticket, with a trip to Mars to rediscover ‘John Carter’ in the technological age of green screen, CGI and 3D.
If you have seen the trailers, you could think that this film could go either way.  It could be truly amazing or a corny disappointment.  My verdict: “Amazing”.
You need to see it. You need to take your kids—over eight I’d say.  You need to take your other half and prepare yourself to see a movie that will become a favourite.  You will want to own the DVD.  You may even want to build a home theatre so you can watch it over and over again on a big screen, as it is meant to be seen. YES, I think it's that good.
JOHN CARTER is set in the civil war period and told in flashback via his own journal given to his nephew upon his death.  Our hero, John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is war and world weary.  Despite being a strong fighter, he wants no part of the war. He wants instead to find a rumoured cave of gold.  When he finds the cave he also finds a portal to another world—Barsoom (Mars).  And wouldn’t you know it; there is a ten thousand year old civil war on Barsoom too.  This guy just can’t catch a break
With the powers that John inherits, due to the difference in atmosphere, he becomes a much desired ally by all factions.  He is captured by the Tharks, four armed, tusked creatures, who are hoping the humanoid inhabitants of Barsoom will kill off each other and leave them alone.  Eventually he wins the respect of their leader, Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe). 
Meanwhile, the Zodangans, lead by Sab Than (Dominic West), battle with the Heliumites, whose beautiful Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) strives to find a solution that will end the fighting and save her beloved planet.  This comes in the form of a planned marriage to Sab Than, the enemy.   But, like all good Warrior Princesses, Dejah Thoris will not go quietly.  Don't worry if you can't get your head around the unwieldy names. You have one hundred and thirty-two minutes in which to become familiarised.  The story is an action packed adventure, with a quest thrown in, as John Carter tries to find a way home to Earth.  Once Dejah Thoris meets John Carter, well let’s just say, planets collide. 
The one thing that sets JOHN CARTER apart from other fantasy adventures is that the story and the visuals are extremely believable. This is very much due to the vision of its Oscar Winning Director, Andrew Stanton, who also co-wrote the screenplay along with Michael Chabon, and Mark Andrews.  Stanton helped establish Pixar as one of the world's leading animation studios as the designer and writer on the TOY STORY films, A BUG’S LIFE, FINDING NEMO AND WALL-E.
Stanton says, “JOHN CARTER is a big, epic, sci-fi action-adventure with romance and action and political intrigue and because the subject matter was written so long ago, it became the origin of those kinds of stories in the last century
It was difficult to go back into this book and not look like you were being derivative of everything else because it’s been an inspiration for one hundred years.
So Stanton and his team approached the film with a clear mandate.   “I want you to believe that these really are the laws of nature and the rules of reality on another planet,” says Stanton.  “I want the audience to accept Barsoom in the same way you might visit a foreign land in our world and not know anything about its cultures or its flora and fauna and yet, for as fantastical as it can be, you accept it because you know the place really exists somewhere.''
And real it does feel.  JOHN CARTER is a movie like no other. It crosses almost every genre, combining them to take audiences on an exciting ride. The reasonably unknown leads are not only gorgeous to behold but hold their own amongst the technology and animation. 
But it’s the story and the characters that are the true stars here.  One hundred years later, these characters will capture your imagination as they did previous generations.  Don’t be surprised if you find yourself looking towards the night sky and wondering, did Edgar Rice Burroughs write fantasy or fact.