Tuesday, June 26, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: John Carter

2012, Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, Wall-E) -- cinema

Like, Graig, I had high expectations for Mr. Stanton doing a movie, a story, in the calibre of some of the best animated films out there.  Albeit, translating from directing animators to directing people, even green screened people, must be difficult but I am glad the best (Brad Bird being the last one) of the lot are doing it.  So, I will give him that credit, where it is due, and not be too miffed this movie was not handled as well as it should have.  But to also give credit, it was handled incredibly badly in the marketing department. For one thing, John Carter ??  Seriously, if you are going to handle the Barsoom stories then start right off calling them Warlord of Mars or something along that line. Get the attention of the audience that this is a space adventure movie, set on a Mars out of a fantasy that knows nothing of the science of the place!!  Excite people, not expect them to be drawn in just because its Disney.  I watched the trailers excitedly for months and just wasn't... excited.  That sucked.

Now, a little background. I don't  know the stories.  When I was a kid, and I think I have already mentioned this, I didn't particularly like mixing my fantasy and scifi.  Carter swings swords and wears skimpy Conan armor but he also fights aliens and has flying ships.  Meh.  Teenager me was much more divisive.  But still, something about the stories always intrigued me, those tall 4-armed green guys with tusks and the idea of Carter being stronger and more agile because he was on a planet with different gravity.  Did Burroughs know the truth of that?  Dunno, but I liked the idea.  But my only exposure stayed as Frazetta paintings and probably a handful of old comics. I will admit nothing when it comes to the story element of saving the princess wearing the harem outfit... nope, admit nothing.

The movie? Oh yeah, that is why we are here, right? I liked it.  Yeah, not high praise. You see, it is a visual spectacle, as it should have been --- grand, glorious, BIG and exciting.  But the story was in some need of tightening. For one, why three openings? Start with Burroughs getting tailed, no start with a recollection via diary of living in the old west, no START ON MARS.  True, you have to establish some sort of get-the-man-to-mars story but the early part seemed tacked on.  Bleah.  Did I mention there is also a monologue that sets up Mars for us?  Double bleah. The best part of the movie is Carter's introduction to the Green Martians, given to us as Tharks, and their warrior-culture. The CG is top notch, the alieness of them drew me in. Meanwhile the story of the Red Martians and their civil war did nothing for me, let alone the meddling of the godlike White Martians. There is a story about being against war but also doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done.  There is also a story about science run rampant vs the use of clean science. And of course, there is the "i just met you but I love you" story that should have been left to Up where it is easier to accept.  Its a fine movie, probably to be added to my shelf of swords & sandals but it could have been so much better.