“It’s not going to do any good to land on Mars if we’re stupid.” - Ray Bradbury
Last weekend we watched a sci-fi film that reminded me of the good, old-fashioned space sagas, with lots of adventure and lush visual effects. It was Andrew Stanton’s 2012 film “John Carter”, starring Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins and Willem Dafoe. The movie was based on Edgar Rice Burroughs “A Princess of Mars” (the first in a series of 11 novels), which I had read in my youth and which I had enjoyed. The screenplay was written by the director, in collaboration with Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon.
John Carter is a US Civil War veteran who in 1868 is trying to live a normal life. He is approached by the Army and asked to rejoin as he is needed to quell an Indian uprising. As he has had enough of war, he refuses and is thus locked up. He escapes and is pursued by soldiers, who are confronted by Indians. Carter escapes into a cave, which turns out to be the legendary cave of gold he has been searching for. While in the cave he meets someone who is holding a strange medallion. When Carter touches it, he finds himself in another world, “Barsoom”; a place where he can leap incredible heights and has prodigious strength. He encounters strange tall, green-skinned beings he has never seen before. Later, he meets a woman who helps him to discover that he is on Mars. To his chagrin he discovers he is caught in the made of a war and he needs to pick sides in order to survive.
The film reminded me of Avatar in some ways, however, it was a really good, original one with its 132 minutes being well-spent and never along its length did we feel it was too long. The CGI are outstanding and this is what one would expect from the Disney studios. We watched in on Bluray and the colour, clarity and interweaving of live action with CGI were breathtaking. Overall the cinematography, costumes, sets, look and feel of the film was fantastic. It appears the film suffered greatly from bad criticism, but I found that this was unfair.
The two leads were relatively unknown and this was one of the critics’ beefs. Taylor Kitsch is convincing and natural, while Lynn Collins is beautiful and dashing, a good foil to the heroics of the leading man. Willem Dafoe as Tars Tarkas and Samantha Morton as Sola, Mark Strong as the evil Matai Shang all the cast is without exception excellent. The music by Michael Giachinno is remarkably well suited to the action, and the editing by Eric Zumbrunnen supports the narrative greatly.
This is a film I would happily watch again in the near future and this is a good enough recommendation for it. The plot is satisfying and has enough twists and turns to keep one amused. The production values are high, the acting is good and at over two hours long if it leave you wanting more at the end, I think it has ticked all of the entertainment boxes.
Here is a trailer made by fans as opposed to the official one. I think this one is superior…