on 21 May 2012
Ok. Where to start?
Firstly, I have not read the book. So I can't draw any comparisons on content/accuracy etc.
What I wanted to do is simply dispel the rumours and terrible press this move has had to endure.
To start with the painfully obvious: This movie is unlikely to win any oscars (although the CGI is really really good).
I sat down to watch this with very very low expectations. I mean, how much could I expect from a movie panned by all critics and recording massive losses for Disney.
But you know what? This is actually rather good.
It's not going to make it into my all time top ten, but it's a lot of fun.
Maybe it helps that I'm a big sci-fi fan in general, but this type of movie is typically what I like to sit back and watch with full immersion without the need to really work the grey matter in my brain.
The alien race(s) are well developed, the imagery is superb, with Mars looking both daunting and amazing, and as mentioned before, the special effects are top drawer. The battles, especially those in the air are stunning visually.
The lead actors do a decent job of drawing you into their characters and their fight to address the demons in ther respective closets. The female lead is stunningly beautiful, and you never tire of her screen time. The bonus being that she doesnt whine or complain a great deal and really comes accross as a tough heroine in her own right. Carter is well acted, with occasional reference to his troubled past, but this works well as well as it's not overly frequent, and when it does occur, you actually feel for him, at least a bit.
And of course the story itself is excellent. You have to remember just how long ago the book was written. It makes it even more astounding as the level of imagination and creativity that has gone into the story is incredible.
So I guess my point is that this is a good movie. Really. Ignore the press, ignore the negative review. Speak to people that have seen it. Take a chance. Go and see it. Or buy this blu-ray. It's a bargain, and the movie will provide entertainment for all ages (excluding the very young kids).
PS. I thought one of the slightly weak bits was the white apes. Which bizarely is on the cover of the blu-ray. But don't let that put you off. This is a much, much better movie than it's given credit for.
on 21 March 2012
I saw this film last week and it is an excelllent representation of ERBs "A Princess of Mars"
The savaging of this film by the media is not only unfair, its unjustified and frankly I have been disgusted at some of the so called critics and their reviews.
Everyone,I know,that saw this film, loved it-so give it a chance-you will not regret it.
This film is good old fashioned escapism, of a swashbuckling kind,I thought it was better than Avatar ( it was more fun,thats for sure)
Its a pity the film was not given a proper chance.I think it will be judged very kindly, in future years and its a pity more people didnt take a chance on going to the cinema to watch it.
on 11 August 2013
I have a theory when I watch the films in my collection that are supposed to be rubbish because 'they did not do well at the box office'. It's about a fireworks display: Loads of people turn up and it's awful because the people doing it haven't spent enough, but it's a 'hit' simply because they take more than they paid. Then you get the ones where they spend loads, but don't make enough back to cover the budget. So you get a massive display. They just lose money.
Does it make the film bad? Well, no, cos the 'display' is still good, yes? Just there were not enough people to see it.
John Carter carries that like a millstone and I really felt I might be taking a chance when I bought it. But after the first half an hour, some of which takes a little bit to get going, the film is off. No spoilers, but some of the CGI characters wipe anything in the later Star Wars films off the map.
The Tharks are SO realistic, you forget after a while you are watching CGI. Oh. And got to love the 'dog' - watch the film, you'll get it.
Some might say it's not original: There is an arena scene VERY VERY similar to the one in Attack of the Clones. But bear in mind that this came first - not in film terms, but from the original book, written by the guy that wrote Tarzan. In fact Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) was offered the chance to direct and said "Lucas picked the bones of that already". But this IS a PROPER story.
And so this is a better film than any of Part 1, 2 or 3 Star Wars films. Taylor Kistch comes over as a dashing, charismatic hero and Lynn Collins is the perfect leading lady for the Dad's especially.
Terrific fun and take my advice, ignore the box office.
I liked this film a lot. Long long time ago, when I was a teenager, I read some of Edgar Rice Burroughs novels in the "Barsoom" series (Barsoom means Mars in Martian language) and I enjoyed them greatly. And thanks to this movie, I just relived again this experience and I could enjoy a little bit of the old magic.
Burroughs books about Tarzan (he created this character) had quite a number of movie adaptations, but his Martian and Venusian series were considered for a long time too hard to film. Considering that the first book was written in 1912 and that the first plans to film it were made (without success) in 1931, it certainly took time to have a movie version of the first of "Barsoom" books - but considering the rather pleasant result, it was worth waiting that long.
Below I tried to describe the best things in this film, with as little SPOILERS as possible.
1. John Carter from Virginia, a former captain of Confederate cavalry. For my personal taste Taylor Kitsch pictured him quite well, and the scenario describes him like in the book, as a man courageous, strong and aggressive but also noble, faithful and clever. Unlike in some other action movies I found this hero quite LIKEABLE - he is a little bit grim and sullen in the beginning, but we soon come to understand why and frankly he has reasons to be in such a state of mind. His progressive awakening to a second chance in life is credible and a pleasant thing to watch.
2. Dejah Thoris of Helium, the Princess of Mars. Actually, the first book in "Barsoom" series, of which this film is the adaptation, had for title precisely "A Princess of Mars", as Dejah Thoris is a character as important as John Carter. In the film, in my opinion her character completely steals the show and it is in large part due to the excellent performance of Lynn Collins. Whoever cast her in that role was a genius! Her Dejah Thoris is an excellent mixture of an amazon (courage and strength), a scholar (brains and learning) and an aristocratic young lady (pride and manners). In this film Dejah Thoris is different from what we could see in the first "Barsoom" book (in which she never even touches a weapon), but it doesn't really hurt the story.
Lynn Collins was clearly instructed to play Dejah Thoris as warrior princess, but she still kept Dejah Thoris a very feminine character, in the best sense of the term. Although she swings the sword and pilots the warships as the best male warriors of her country, she also can display a moment of girlish cheerfulness and enthusiasm, smile in a way which melts the hardest hearts, give looks filled with an almost motherly warmth and tenderness (and also a purring promise) and walk in such a way that all males in the assistance are almost howling! I particularly appreciated the fact that when sharpening her sword she simply couldn't resist to look on the blade, check her make up and preen a little... And then, there are short moments when we perceive a brief glimpse of vulnerability - and at that time she is even more impressive.
The fact that Ms Collins is a very beautiful woman with an exceptional figure only adds to her performance - also her clothes, body paintings, haircut, makeup and jewelry were perfectly well chosen! And I really believe that her model of wedding dress should be MANDATORY on Earth - the number of men willing to marry would probably explode overnight as the result! Frankly, when she appeared in her wedding dress, the male part of the public gasped - and in the same time many girls in the cinema started to emit noises similar to those made by a very angry rattlesnake when choking on a half swallowed chinchilla...)))
To resume, Lynn Collins pictured a PERFECT Dejah Thoris. Even if this character is not entirely faithful to the one imagined by Edgar Rice Burroughs, I still had a feeling of "Dejah Vu" (sorry for that, I couldn't resist...)
3. The Tharks, desert warriors. Excellent. I found every scene with Thark tribe a delight. The characters of Tars Tarkas and Sola are very well done and played. The Woola "dog" is simply too cute and extremely funny - every scene when it appears was welcomed by a big laughter in the cinema.
4. Other special effects. This film was very costly and you can really see the effects on the screen. The mobile city of Zodanga, walking through the desolate deserts of Mars is really impressive. The flying warships are excellent. The gigantic White Apes are really impressive and scary. The city of Helium is very beautiful. And finally, the panorama of Mars is really well done - one can immediately see that this world was once full of life, but it is now dying and in dire need of help...
5. Dominic West. He plays a scoundrel - again. I must admit that I have a weakness for this actor, since watching him in "The Wire", but also the "300" and "Centurion". Here his role is not as important as it could be, considering that he is not exactly THE main villain (it is not exactly a spoiler - we learn it in the first scene of the film). But it is still a pleasure to watch him.
6. Difference with the books. There are many small and one HUGE difference with the "Princess of Mars", concerning the race of Therns, who in the book do not play an important role - in the "Barsoom" series they really appear in later parts. But I believe this HUGE change for once was a rather good thing, as it allows for a more logical explanation of John Carter's travels from Earth to Mars. The smaller differences didn't hurt the movie either.
7. The ending is quite good, not stupid at all and rather moving. And that is something not so frequent in modern Hollywood movies. Good job for this one!
Bottom line, I liked this film a lot and I am certainly going to buy it as soon as it is available - preferably in Blu-Ray, because here the quality of image has its importance. And I will certainly go to see the sequel if there is one, for many obvious reasons but especially because I am DYING to see how they would solve the little problem of Martian reproduction - because you see, in the books, when John Carter and Dejah Thoris are married, she lays him an egg...)))
What with Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, Hollywood is mad keen to find potential established intellectual properties to turn into movie franchises. Franchises are easy, you see. If people love the first one, they'll go and see the others no matter how rubbish they are (Matrix and Pirates of the Caribbean, I'm looking at you) and guaranteed revenue streams are the dream of, well, not just Hollywood executives, but it is definitely their dream as well as everyone elses.
With that in mind, it was sort-of inevitable that Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter series would make their way to the big screen. It is not the original man-travels-to-alien-culture-and-has-an-adventure story in spite of what some might say, but certainly a early and pivotal addition to the genre especially in American culture. Burroughs' stroke of genius with John Cater was to realise that when it was written the British had most of the globe stitched up in terms of travelling to foreign places and showing the natives who was best, and so he transferred the action to outer space. It's an idea that has been mined by James Cameron and George Lucas and many others for the last century and that is, perhaps, the biggest problem the film faces. We've seen it all before. In Avatar, in Dances with wolves, in books like Ursula le Guins The Dispossessed. Most of the reviews I've seen have taken the line that John Carter is kinda samey and unoriginal. Reviews like that are going to put people off seeing it, which I think is unfair because I really rather liked it.
Perhaps because the story is so old, it lacks any pretentions or postmodernism. It's an unapologetic adventure romp as earthman John Carter is whisked off to an adventure on the planet Mars where the yellow sun - sorry low gravity - gives him superpowers, and where he jolly well shows the natives who's best. And perhaps due to the lack of any knowing winks, political subtext or post-colonial guilt, it's a tremendously enjoyable adventure romp. John (the unfortunately named but pleasingly charismatic Taylor Kitsch) leaps about the screen showing baddies what's what and is ably supported by a supporting cast including Dominic West, Ciaran Hinds, James Purefoy, Mark Strong (typecast as a villain, Mark?) and Willem Dafoe who all ham it up with gusto. The design of Mars is great - referencing decades of pictures inspired by Burroughs' work, whilst neatly bringing up to date some of the more dated ideas (like Martians flying round in airships) and rendering the lot seamlessly between CGI, model work and location filming to create a convincing image of a life-bearing by dying mars. The director even takes the time to reference the work of Boris Vallejo in one battle sequence which ends with Carter standing atop of pile of slain enemies. All he really needed was a girl or two clutching his leg and gazing up at him adoringly.
As I sat and munched on my popcorn, one thought just kept popping into my head. Well, actually two thoughts . First that Lynn Collins, who plays Princess of Mars Dejah Thoris, is one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen and where has she been all my life?, and second the repeating thought: "This is what The Phantom Menace should have been like". Phantom Menace failed in two major areas. One, a clunky, exposition-heavy script which led to considerable yawning and bemusement by the audience, and two, a comic sidekick who any normal person wanted to see killed as quickly and painfully as possible. John Carter gets both these things completely right. The script is fast-paced, doesn't pause for breath much or take time for unnecessary exposition and instead of winking at the audience it smiles broadly at you instead. It's like the film is an playful dog, saying "Isn't this fun? Let's play some more!" before launching into some more action-packed intergalactic hi-jinks with an enthusiastic twinkle. Perhaps most impressively, the film contains an amusing comedy sidekick who - get this - you don't want to see dead or maimed and is, in fact, both likeable and amusing.
Wow. Beat that, George Lucas.
So in many ways, the reviews are correct: John Carter is dated, twenty years too late, and filled with ideas that have been done to death.
On the other hand, it's fast, fun, highly likeable, and extremely pretty. It is, like I say, everything the Phantom Menace should have been. The tragedy is that George Lucas is the one who got all the money whilst we're unlikely ever to see the heavily flagged sequel to John Carter.
on 3 September 2012
John Carter is a hugely enjoyable sci-fi movie. I have absolutely no knowledge of the source material, and I'm sure the production issues, success/failure etc have already been covered better elsewhere, so I'll stick to trying to honestly say why I think it's worth watching:
Taylor Kitsch is enormously good fun as the lead. Charismatic, earnest and good hearted, he's an easy hero to champion, and also injects the parts with a very funny wry humour - first of all as a war veteran determined not to be captured in a brilliant sequence of events, and then as a baffled human transported millions of miles through space to an alien world.
Once there, his learning process is what sucks us in, as he pratfalls with the different gravity, enrages and then befriends huge tusked aliens with fascinating cultural behaviour, and utlimately tries to save their world.
All of the performers shine, with Lynn Collins radiant enough to captivate as the princess who captures his heart, and the voice actors are terrific at humanising the CGI aliens. The stunts are suitably astounding and 'out of this world' (leaps of hundreds of feet), the technology is gorgeously alien (vessels that glide and shimmer like dragonflies), and the bad guys are suitably evil and amoral, giving Carter a genuine challenge to battle against. Best of all, the challenges in the ending are vast, and you really feel the hero is striving through incredible odds to try to seize a well earned victory.
Fun, sweetly emotional, gorgeous in that 'desert alien world' manner that 'Dune' possessed, and extremely distinctive. This film deserved to soar - it's a shame it was condemned to failure by studio heads paranoid that using 'Mars' in the title would cause it to flounder, and who then unwittingly ensured it would by giving it a title worthier of a biopic about an accountant. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy.
How about a better self-fulfilling prophecy: if you rent a deliberately silly, fun, cheesy film about an earnest civil war hero saving Mars, you might end up grinning.
on 7 May 2012
When was the last time I went to see a film twice in the theater? Well, there were Hobbits in it. I've seen John Carter five times in as many weeks. When was the last time I HAD to place a pre-order to get the DVD ASAP? Never!!! I could always wait, even for LOTR. So why is this film different?
John Carter has a lot going for it, despite anything the critics may have said. I am not a prior fan of the actors or director, so that isn't why I went. I just loved the books. I was fortunate not to read the bad press until after I bought a ticket and so I went expecting an acceptable adaptation, maybe what we think of as "the Disney Version." What I got was so much more. Two heroes you can empathize with and respect - John and Tars Tarkas - who change and grow while you watch them. There is a princess who could give lessons in spunk, brains and sheer grrrl power to any female around and still be your BF, and the cutest - and fastest - monster-dog you've ever seen.
This is not cheesy CGI - these characters are well done, well rounded and believable. I forgot they were animated. There is no gratuitous throwing junk at the screen, no camera jiggle to hide the poor SFX. Just sheer talent displayed by the entire cast - live and animated.
If you liked 20000K Under the Sea - you will like this movie. It is epic!
If you liked StarWars - you will like this movie - the princess is priceless.
If you liked LOTR - you will get a kick out of the Tharks and love Woola.
If you liked Romeo & Juliet - this love story will also move you.
If you just want a few good laughs John Carter has those too.
See it in theatres before it is gone and/or grab it on DVD while you can.
Tarks Takas says four thumbs way UP, and I have to agree with him!
on 4 July 2012
Cannot understand how anyone could slate this as it is awesome i really enjoyed it and do hope that there is another as i so would like to see more of this.
Anyone who thinks a two hour film is too long proberbly has some sort of attention problems that they should seek help for, i could happily watch this for many many hours and can state to you all right now that i will be watching this again many more times as it is a wonderfull change of pace from the useual tired storylines that are done and redone by other films.
on 5 March 2015
Ignore the critics on this one. Its a great retelling of an old story and despite the headlines about it being the biggest flop of all time it has brains and beauty. It felt a little like Star Wars in its epic reach but I guess there is no accounting for taste. In terms of the key elements here are my scores out of 10.
Character development 7/10 (Could have told a bit more but it would have been 3 hours)
World building 7/10 - Too much for some to take in (Not me though)
I would (and will) watch this one again.
Really this should have been two movies but Disney wanted to create an epic feel. I think perhaps some people lost engagement with the story because they were being asked to digest too much information about John and the alien races of Mars. Its a great shame that this one didn't go on to be the franchise that we all hoped it would. The interesting fact is that it grossed $73m domestically in the US but a massive $211m outside of the US with the most successful country being Russia ($33m) With a budget of $250m and total income of $284m this movie made money .... but just not enough. It comes to something when a film takes over quarter of a billion at the box office and is called a flop. I leave it to your own judgement.
on 26 July 2015
With all the negative reviews it only seemed fair to buy this when it was cheap. :)
I can see why it was a huge flop, but..... Let's stop there and view this at face value.
It's a complicated book and converting this into a 'family friendly' film under 2.5 hours is going struggle.
If anyone has seen The Golden Compass, or the early 80's film Dune might agree, there some things that just don't convert to films well, mainly because of the dilema of explaining 'plot' over keeping the film moving and entertaining.
I'd say give it a watch and see for yourself. Disney has done a good attempt trying to give the audience a watchable film, loosely understanding plot and big spectacle CG scenes. Yes, a few of scenes had you raising a puzzled eyebrow, but mainly because things were not explained well before another scene comes crashing in and takes over.
Some of the ideas are as 'out there' as some of the last 3 Starwars films - let's create the most bizarre creatures which means creating an even more strange scene to fit them in. But there is a story there, if complicated to follow, it has light hearted/funny moments throughout the film for family effect, so kids get the big CG scenes with big creatures and big explosions and the adults.., well, one adult in our house said "don't get this" and promptly went upstairs, while the rest of us stayed.. In a nutshell, that's it, some are going to love it (kids) as they dont really follow the films underlying story, whilst the adults will be split..
It's a rainy Sunday afternoon viewing...
So in short, the film could have been better, but you'd have to do a 'Lord of the Rings' 4 hour version making it slow and drawn out, and even then, people might still not get it.