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Director: Andrew Stanton
Writers: Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews, Michael Chabon, Edgar Rice Burroughs
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Mark Strong, Samantha Morton, Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church, Ciarán Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy, Bryan Cranston, Polly Walker, Daryl Sabara
Synopsis: Transplanted to Mars, a Civil War vet discovers a lush planet inhabited by 12-foot tall barbarians. Finding himself a prisoner of these creatures, he escapes, only to encounter a princess who is in desperate need of a savior.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action
Arise John Carter of Mars!
Although many people might bash this movie saying that it allegedly steals references from other science fiction classics like "Star Wars" and etc., but many of those same people fail to realize that "John Carter" existed long before many science fiction franchises even existed; hence it's kind of the other way around if you want to start splitting heirs.
To be honest, I was sorely surprised to see how many film critics bashed this movie, but I honestly thought it was a well orchestrated science-fiction action epic piece. If anything, it not only met all my expectations, but it also surpassed them as well. Based on the trailers alone, we already knew this film was going to deliver on the special effects part, and action elements tenfold. Hell, it's kind of a given these days considering the era of movies that we live in. However, what I wasn't expecting was a film that would become arguably one of the best movies of 2012 that I've seen thus far.
The movie is based on the series of books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, who some might be more familiar with when it comes to his other works; involving the infamous "Tarzan" character specifically. A long time ago, Edgar wrote a book series based on a character that was a Civil War Confederate vet, who somehow finds himself transported to Mars. From there, he'd find himself in all sort of adventures that would go on to serve as something of a blueprint for future science fiction franchises. Take in mind, the Mars that John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) gets transported to isn't the same planet that many NASA experts talk about in various documentaries, and text books. No, this version of Mars is more of an imagined fantasy piece if anything else, so I wouldn't bother trying to break down how scientifically plausible this film is; which sadly makes this film's story a bit dated by today's standards. However, it's just a movie anyway, so there's really no point in taking it that seriously.
Anyway, due to a series of unlikely events, John Carter finds himself on Mars, where surprisingly the atmosphere not only allows him to breath, but due to it's low level of gravity, he seems to possess super human strength and agility within the planet's atmosphere. Along the way, he eventually finds himself in the middle of a war on the planet Mars, and he also meets a lovely princess named Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins), who happens to in desperate need of a savior.
I won't bother divulging too much into the story, as I would hate to ruin it for too many readers. However, I will say that movie is surprisingly better than what most critics give it credit for. To be honest, I think if this film had somehow come out, with cheesier effects, back when "B-Movies" were coming out, then "John Carter" might have been more well received; considering that we didn't really know much about astrology during Golden Age era of Hollywood. Therefore, "John Carter" would've been a lot more plausible for most audiences to buy into it. Unfortunately, "John Carter" suffers from coming out in the wrong era, where some people would look at a film like "John Carter" and say, "That's not how Mars is! Didn't these morons do any research about the actual planet itself?"
However, what many of these same skeptics fail to realize is that the film is based on a character that was created way back in 1912, and very few people knew anything about what the real planet Mars was like back then. Therefore, a lot of science fiction writers would often speculate about it all the time; with logic or scientific proof be damned. Hell, even "Twilight Zone" had it's share of episodes with aliens from Mars too. Therefore, if you go into this movie expecting it to be realistic, then you're going to be disappointed. As I stated earlier, this film isn't set in the same Mars that many of us might have seen discussed in various science documentaries, or text books. No, this is more of a fantasy piece about Mars, so please bear that in mind if you watch this.
As for the rest of the film, it's actually quite enjoyable, as the trailers don't do the movie any real justice at all. For example, one might look at the Princess of Mars as nothing more than a would be "damsel in distress", who's only two functions serve to look pretty in scantly clothes and become the hero's main squeeze. I do apologize if that comes across as sexist, as I have a lot of respect for women. However, when it comes to most movies, even most feminists will tell you that Hollywood writers don't often portray women that well. Luckily for "John Carter", this doesn't seem to be an issue at all.
If anything, Dejah is even more fearless than John Carter; considering that she lacks the physical advantages that John has, who benefits mainly from being born on a planet with heavier gravity. Gee, I guess this must be where part of the inspiration for "Superman" might have came from, as he too had super human abilities due to coming from a planet with heavier gravity. However, those things won't stop her from risking her life, to do what's right. Sure, some people may roll their eyes asking, "Why is it necessary for her to run around half naked throughout most of the movie?" But to be fair though, it does seem like she showed a lot more skin during some of the book illustrations that I was able to look up through google, so it could have been worse.
However, from a character standpoint, she's actually quite a strong willed character, who isn't afraid to voice her opinions, and she's willing to fight for what she believes in. Granted, John still has to save her somehow around the ending, but throughout most of the film, she's portrayed as a very strong willed woman that could easily hold her own in a fight.
As for Taylor Kitsch, I really hope "John Carter" becomes a hit over the long run. Sure, this movie may be considered a bomb for now, but "Duck Soup" was also a bomb upon it's initial release. Yet, years later it would go on to be considered one of the greatest films of all time. I'm not saying "John Carter" should be deemed a classic, but it's definitely deserves a lot more praise than it's currently getting. Anyway, like most leading men in action films, Taylor seems to carry his part rather well. If anything, I thought he did a helluva a lot better job in this movie, than Sam Worthington did in his "Clash of the Titans" film.
Of course, where would a science fiction epic be without a great villain? Enter Mark Strong. Not only does Mark do an excellent job playing the skillful bad guy manipulating things behind the scenes, but he does it with such quiet calm reserve that makes his character come off as both dignified, and kind of intimidating at the same time.
However, that's not to say this film is by any means perfect. Like most films of this ilk, the movie still follows many cliches of the genre, and the ending seems more of a tease to entice viewers to see a possible sequel; rather than making it seem more like a well rounded film.
Overall, most audiences should be able to enjoy "John Carter" if they're not expecting any kind of realism, and only want to see a film that's aesthetically appealing; while offering a story that leans more on escapism appeal rather than giving you a story that makes you think (i.e. "Inception"). However, you have to keep in mind that the story did serve as a blue print for various science fiction franchises that came out over the decades; hence I wouldn't be too harsh on the film. In the end, I'd have to give "John Carter" a solid three out of four. It's not the best science fiction/fantasy movie that I've seen, but it's definitely the best one that I've seen in 2012 thus far.