I've really been wondering if Disney could do this film justice. Then seeing a picture of Willem Dafoe on stilts before being swapped out for a CGI Tars Tarkas really made me want to see this.
John Carter 3D [PG-13]
Holland 7 Theatre #5, 3:20pm, 2×$9.25
The history of trying to get John Carter of Mars on film is long, convoluted, and in a recent Wired magazine article, been doomed to failure until now. Plus I haven't read any of the books directly. So to say that this film seems derivative of other modern SF/F films is complicated by the chicken versus egg question. But... watching this gave me strong echoes of Cowboys & Aliens, Avatar, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and The Chronicles of Riddick -- and those are the ones I can name right off the bat without breaking a sweat. I suppose with the high gravity alien (from Earth), we can throw in Superman or Andromeda for good measure.
We chose to see this in Holland in 3D, rather than IMAX 3D had more to do with really liking the Holland 7 and planning on a nice uncrowded grocery store run after a nice uncrowded movie. As opposed to cost, for example. And since we were early and had just had lunch, it didn't seem practical to buy popcorn only to have it gone before the film even started.
But what about the movie, you cry? It's pretty good. We enjoyed it. Looks fantastic. Impressive visuals. I particularly liked the tattoo artistry and attention to cultural building of the aliens. You'll soon be up to speed on some of the vocabulary, whether or not it would sound ridiculous if one wasn't trying to be serious.
At 132 minutes, they take some time with the opening set up. And once John Carter gets to Mars, they do spend a little time wondering what a human would do in Mars gravity. Technically accurate? Not really the point here. (grin)
The larger flying vehicles look gorgeous -- the smaller ones seem to suffer from selective use of indestructibilium as they careen against things and alternately crumple or bounce off with zero damage.
Meanwhile, John Carter is doing his own bouncing around, both literally and from one armed camp to another. We expect him to end up in Dejah Thoris' arms, our Princess of Mars, but it isn't going to be easy. Our princess is a scientist, warrior, a fierce patriot and expected to be a loyal pawn for her people in a battle between the forces of red and blue. There's plenty of pseudoscience technobabble going around, but they believe it, so it seems to work. Let's just say that life on Barsoom -- Mars -- is complicated.
Edgar Rice Burrough's John Carter of Mars stories are the grandfather of many of our SF epics. That we have a modern computer generated plus epic cast/sets in 3D as the first real version on the big screen, at least puts it on the same shelf as our other SF/F epics. Not perfect by any means, there are a few cringeworthy scenes and bits of dialogue, and John Cater's "dog" is over the top.
Disney has the rights to three Barsoom books, so I think we can expect to see the canonical film trilogy. We'll bring the popcorn next time.
TRAILERS: Include Men in Black 3, The Avengers and Prometheus -- Ridley Scott is doing another Alien movie, in 3D!
PS -- MAD Magazine has apparently pulled off a Jimmy Carter of Mars parody.