John Carter (starring Taylor Kitsch)
A civil war veteran (Taylor Kitsch), on the run and searching for riches stumbles across a medallion that transports him to Mars, a planet inhabited by both humans and aliens, all of which, at war and looking to him as a possible savior who can turn the balance.
Disney isn’t prone to taking risks as a studio, sure they’ve rolled the dice a couple times (I mean, who knew if PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, a film based upon a theme park ride, would even succeed), but for the most part they know what they’re doing. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that they have a bankroll to rival Scrooge McDuck himself. Taming the adult themed waters does take more than money however, something Disney found out first hand with CHRONICELS OF NARNIA and THE PRINCE OF PERSIA. Those two I get; the first is based upon a popular children’s book series and the second was a popular video game franchise. Both titles were relatively known worldwide. JOHN CARTER is a different story altogether. I don’t feel many people know it (though it too is based upon fairly popular literature), and that’s a monumental risk when trying to appease the Sci-Fi/Fantasy Gods.
I first caught the trailer awhile back and was confused, I literally sat back in my chair and said, ” what was that all about!?” I’d never heard of JOHN CARTER. On the plus side, I’m a fan of Taylor Kitsch and have been since THE COVENANT, I also dig a good Sci-Fi/Fantasy epic a la AVATAR, so the intrigue was there to be sure, but somehow I feel the entire marketing campaign for this flick left a lot to be desired. Having a dude beam up to a Mars colonized by seven foot tall aliens, actual races of people and immortal demigods who can travel between worlds is a large pill to swallow on the best day, let alone during our theatrical slump season. Sure, this flick made about 30 million domestically but it was still beaten by THE LORAX (ouch), and what’s worse, in two weeks THE HUNGER GAMES comes out which will have people saying, “John who…” if they aren’t already.
Marketing aside, for a film that runs just over two hours JOHN CARTER was still a fun time. Taylor Kitsch is a great lead, and his character is hilarious. He’s captured by the army in the beginning in hopes of having him fight for them once again (helped by Bryan “Walter White” Cranston), only to have him escape three times and smack everyone around in the process. I liked Carter’s character transformation, it’s not unlike many antiheroes we’ve come to know, but you root for him and that’s what matters. I’ll say this about the red planet though, Carter’s adventure is the coolest thing to hit Mars since TOTAL RECALL. Willem Dafoe lends his voice as well as going out to James Purefoy, one of my favorite underrated actors (if you missed SOLOMON KANE you need to stop what you’re doing and go watch it RIGHT NOW). Lynn Collins (TRUE BLOOD, X-MEN ORIGINS WOLVERINE) was beautiful and in phenomenal shape, as was Kitsch and the rest of the crew, we’re talking rigorous 300/SPARTACUS diets and training here, not to mention the swordplay. JOHN CARTER definitely scores big points in the fine details column.
JOHN CARTER is no doubt one of the coolest and most epic Sci-Fi/Fantasy flicks most people won’t see in theaters…or maybe at all. You can blame timing, marketing, thematic elements or simply bad luck, but after sinking over $250 million into this bad boy and clearly hoping for sequels, the numbers just don’t seem to be there and like I said, they might have a chance next week up against 21 JUMP STREET, but it’s game over when THE HUNGER GAMES takes center stage. This film’s been in development longer than some people live (seventy-nine years) which doesn’t come as much of a surprise considering the source material and what they wanted to accomplish. These aliens looked and felt more realistic than those from AVATAR (read the Movie Review), and visually, the landscapes, buildings and machines were breathtaking (Carter’s wardrobe looked a bit like He-Man’s which made grin). Disney’s come a long way, for a PG-13 adventure we still get limbs being cut off, heads a flying and lots of blood (it’s blue, but still). I dug this film and enjoyed Taylor Kitsch’s peformance and would love to see another, here’s hoping word of mouth travels fast enough to make it happen.