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Disappointing film from Disney
John Carter (DVD)
Member Name: rosaliecullen
John Carter (DVD)
Advantages: Great sets
Disadvantages: Confusing stories and hard to keep up
John Carter is a Disney film which really gives nothing away about the plot of the film by looking at the title of the film! Please note this is a film-only review as we rented the film from Blockbuster so I can't review the DVD extra features as they only send the main film. John Carter is based on a series of books by Edgar Rice Burroughs which were written around 100 years ago. I can't say that I am particularly familiar with the books nor the author but I guess if you had read his book series then you would have an idea of what the film John Carter was about.
The two things that sold this film to me initially were the fact that Disney made it (bound to be good?) and the fact that Taylor Kitsch (yum!) of Friday Night Lights fame was the lead character so there would be a good bit of eye candy if nothing else! Equally we see James Purefoy (Mark Anthony from Rome) and Dominic West (Jimmy McNulty from the Wire) star in this film so it is fairly full of well known actors.
The basic premise of the plot surrounds John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) who is an American Confederate Civil War Captain getting into an altercation in the Arizonian desert between himself and a group of Native Americans. To escape, himself and the Colonel hide in a cave. Inside the cave are lots of mysterious drawings and suddenly inside the cave a Thern appears. John Carter kills the Thern and is mysteriously transported to a very different world with the help of the Thern's medallion. We find out soon after that he is on the planet of Barsoom (essentially Mars!). The film follows the journey of John Carter around this strange planet and trying to get home to Earth. Of course along the way he meets Tharks (green aliens) and people from two Martian cities (Helium and Zodanga) who have been at war for many years.
I felt that the plot was very difficult to get into to start with, not least because we hop about from 18th Century America to Mars quite quickly. I felt I was just beginning to enjoy a bit of a Western Cowboys & Indian's-type of film and then ended up being transported to the Martian desert with Aliens. I actually said to my husband that the film would have been better called "Cowboys and Aliens" rather than John Carter! Anyway, if you want to watch the film because you like the Civil War period, you will basically be very disappointed as the majority of the film is set on Mars.
The main problem I had was following all of the different people and trying to figure out who was fighting who. The people from the cities of Helium and Zodanga had their own problems and the Tharks (green monsters) had their problems and then there were the Therns who caused another set of problems. I also kept getting confused between a Thern and a Thark! I felt that there was too much in the way of new terminology and unusual words to keep tabs on who was who and where they came from. In a way, it had a feeling of Star Wars to it, I felt like we were all on Tatooine (even the 'pet' Thark looked like Jabba the Hut!). By that, I mean that in Star Wars there are many, many planets and people who you learn about, but because you have three or six films to learn about them you can form bonds to the characters whereas in this film I found I didn't really care too much for the Princess of Helium until at least three quarters of the way through the film, all of her early woes were too rushed and I couldn't find sympathy for the character. However, since finding out that the film was based on a book, I can imagine the book to be quite good at developing the characters, creatures and the worlds in a more descriptive way and at a slower pace.
The majority of the film is an action film set in the Martian desert so very much like Star Wars we have laser guns in deserts with strange looking creatures around. Sadly, for me the film wasn't all that good or interesting despite it clearly having a huge budget. My favourite parts were set back on Earth and I though the overall plot (which I haven't described here for fear of spoiling) was excellent, particularly the ending. Unfortunately for me, the middle section of action and drama just let the film down.
The acting from Taylor Kitsch was great. I wasn't sure what to expect as I'd only seen him in the TV series Friday Night Lights but I was really pleased and convinced by his performance. Some of the other characters were slightly overacted (the princess for example).
One of the best things for me was the scenery, particularly back on Earth. The rolling landscapes of Arizona and Utah were perfect for this film and the scenes on Mars where they raft down the river were brilliant. There were a few moments of dodgy CGI background where you could tell that they weren't actually in that environment and were against a green screen but on the whole the special effects were pretty good.
The film is 132 minutes long and in parts it does begin to feel like it is too long. I asked "how much longer" twice which I never do when I watch long films and they are good. It may be too long for small children to sit through.
Despite the action and drama there aren't really any parts unsuitable for children as you would imagine from a Disney film. There are some elements of comedy particularly in the first half hour from John Carter but then when the action kicks in the comedy element falls by the wayside.
I feel mixed about this film, the acting on the whole was great, the sets, the props, the scenery were all great too. The main thing that let it down was the fact that despite the 132 run-time, the book was clearly squashed into a short film and that meant many of the things that had been explored in the books were not clearly explained to the viewers or the viewers did not have time to process who was who and what their problems were.
I definitely didn't hate the film but I didn't love it either, I feel it could have been made a lot better than it was in terms of storytelling. The ending was good and the overarching storyline was good, just the Martian storylines were a wee bit hard to follow.
I guess I'd recommend this film if you have nothing else to do or if you have read the book as you will understand lots of what happens already. For me though I can't really give it more than two stars and that is literally for the great sets, scenery and the overall plot.
Summary: Watch it if you have 2 hours to kill