Directed by: Andrew Stanton
Screenplay by: Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews.
FOR a film 79 years in the making, a budget of $250,000,000 may seem like an acceptable accumulated interest for a project as anticipated as Disney’s ‘John Carter’. This film which is the first of a planned trilogy, is based on the 1912 novel ‘A Princess of Mars’ from Edgar Rice Burroughs ‘Barsoom Series’ of novels. ‘John Carter’ is a green screen, computer generated film of meticulous detail. A Sci-fi action adventure featuring an American Civil War veteran (aptly, named John Carter) who finds himself transported to Mars and who soon becomes embroiled in a new war of un-civilly epic proportion.
‘John Carter’ begins with the weary civil war veteran and explorer’s apparent death. At the reading of his will, Carter’s surprised young nephew is left everything in his vast estate, including a small leather diary with the instructions that his nephew alone must read it immediately.The story continues through the reading of Carter’s journal which explains how the veteran / treasure hunter found a magical medallion in a cave of gold when he was chased by Indians while escaping capture by a civil war commander and his team who were trying to convince Carter, a skilled fighter, through various methods to re-join the war effort with little avail. If this synopsis seems tough to follow, then tie down your Matai Shangs, and strap in your Kantos Kan, for ‘John Carter’ soon descends into ‘Phantom Menace-esque’ levels of unforgiving fast paced intergalactic detail and story telling.
The beginnings of the project of what is now ‘John Carter’, began life in 1931 in an animated proposal from Robert Clampett of ‘Looney Tunes’. The proposal developed through numerous production companies and directors, actors and screenwriters until it was picked up by Disney and given to Andrew Stanton of ‘Toy Story’ fame, finally making its way onto the big screen in 2012. Despite the 79 year gap and change of hands, you could be forgiven to think that the director of ‘Looney Tunes’ was still at the helm of this Titanically budgeted project. The story, which understandably appeals to sci-fi audiences, is more than looney in direction, containing names, locations and a storyline which often become overwhelming in nature. Much of the dialogue would in fact be at home in one of Clampett’s very own ‘Acme guide to sci-fi storyline handbooks’, as whole scenes can quickly fall into a spiral of Barsoomian Tars Tarkasness.The storyline of ‘John Carter’ is not by any means a total failure. When not introducing new creatures, new technology and waring ‘human’ factions who are totally indistinguishable from each other, the film is attractive to watch, clever at times and has great performances from Taylor Kitsch, Ciarán Hinds and Mark Strong as the leader of the villain race.
When a film is widely reported to have such a high budget as ‘John Carter’, the clinical computer generated detail becomes more expected than impressive. Rather than feel excited by the flawless landscapes, I found myself searching for flaws during scenes where I had otherwise phased out. (Although I can add that I failed to find any such flaws) The fact that there is no ‘A-list’ actors in any lead role in the film, may prove a problem in its appeal to the cinema going masses. Also, amongst the array of characters, both alien and human, I honestly can only recall one characters name, and while he may be human at the beginning, is certainly ‘of Mars’ at the end. Rated for the children, ‘John Carter’ probably wont appeal to the Star Wars Adopted or even the Twilight hoard. In fact In a month where ‘The Hunger Games’ is released, ‘John Carter’ threatens not just to fail to meet budget, but to disappear off the radar altogether. If you want to see a great intergalactic film with an attractive earthling heroine as lead, rent ‘Flash Gordon’ this Easter holiday and give the kids something they will want to watch again and again.
by Matthew P. Collins