The following post is the original version of the review published in our film review column Animadversion for iMAGES on SUNDAY (Dawn Newspaper, 25 March 2012). Links and snaps of the published copy are at the end of this post.
Stranded on Mars, with a Backstory
By Farheen Jawaid
John Carter, like last year’s Conan the Barbarian, brings back the campy 80’s sword-fantasy genre to the big screen. And rather than killing it like Conan, Director Andrew Stanton shakes it up, epic style.
Adapted from Edgar Rice Burroughs A Princess of Mars is known to be deeply soaked in fantasy and science fiction. So it is no surprise that John Carter follows the same traits. Our character, named from the title, will jump supremely high, exhibit amazing strength (though he will fight with swords) and he will be 100% shirtless during the majority of the film.
The film starts with Rice Burroughs (yes the author has an appearance here), inheriting an enormous fortune left by his uncle, who passed away suddenly. He also inherits his journal, which tells him the adventure of John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) in Mars.
The tales tells him, how John Carter got to Mars and how he befriended the natives – the light green, tall, four armed Tharks. How he saves the Princess of Helium, Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins), who’s on the run from an unwanted (though not unwarranted) marriage with the King of the rival city Zodanga, Sab Than (Dominic West), who, reeking of evil intentions, has eyes for something grander than the princess. And finally there’s the omnipresent lurking of powerful beings known as the Thern – whose leader Matai Shang (Mark Strong), a shape changer, comes with his own agenda in the brewing conflict.
John Carter runs like a campy sword-sorcery fantasy of yore, sans any perverse content (as befitting the Disney title on the film). The film is also grossly expensive, and it shows with flawless CG effects that couldn’t be thought of or made in the past.
The cast has a good bit of live action actors even when it’s about Mars; but no one shines in their roles. Kitsch looks vacant of worries (although he has a sob-backstory), but is still handsome. And Collins, who also starred with Kitsch in Wolverine, nails the Amazonian looking princess, with as much sincerity as her role allows to be mustered.
Like Brad Bird, Andrew Stanton, of Finding Nemo and Wall-E fame, hits the nail on the head with his debut live action feature.
So what if John Carter needs a little nip here and a tuck there; it doesn’t deserve the global putdown. With the estimated budget of 250 million dollar, so far it has only collected 179 million.
Can a sequel come after this, hard to say. I won’t mind a sequel, if they bring Woola, Carter’s loyal pet dog like creature, back.
Rated PG-13, John Carter is released by Disney and Footprint Entertainment. It has beautiful framed scenes by cinematographer Daniel Mindel and a paced, commercial, family-friendly screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon.
The film is playing on screens right now. In comparison to the films playing right now, this one is worth the price of admission, and then some.
The published versions is here: http://www.dawn.com/2012/03/25/animadversion-stranded-on-mars.html