John Carter of Mars

July 10, 2012 at 10:41 pm Leave a comment

I can’t say I heard much one way or the other about this movie when it was out or in the months since its unceremonious theatrical release. It’s a movie that almost no one saw. Certainly not anyone I knew. Yet the reactions to the trailers wasn’t negative. Most people just didn’t seem to care. It even took some  convincing to want to watch this movie on Netflix.  For the most part, I have a hard time seeing why this movie flopped in the theaters. The thing is, no one who saw John Carter of Mars gave it too terrible a review.  In fact, very little was said about the movie. I have never seen anything met with more apathy.

As far as big blockbusters go, John Carter was pretty well made. Acting was good, particularly Taylor Kitsch as John Carter. The acting of the CGI creatures was better than usual. It wasn’t quite Gollem from Lord of the Rings good but it was better than a lot of the lazy, CGI critter work that is standard in a lot big Hollywood movies. The CGI work was quite competent. The landscapes looked real good. The battle scenes lack some epicness that it felt like they were going for. The final battle scene could have had something more.  Still when it comes to special effects, they did really well with this movie. All the more reason why I am confused at it’s failure at the theaters. I’ve seen far worse movies with far worse effects succeed at the theaters.

The story took a while to get going. We start out learned that John Carter’s nephew was left an considerable estate by his uncle. The first order of business is to read John Carter’s journal.  So much of this story is, in fact, back story. Captain John Carter of the Confederate Army has been arrested in Arizona for no particular reason. The Union Army has basically conscripted him to fight off Indian attacks. If he refuses, which he does, they will hold him in jail indefinitely. He escapes custody and finds himself in a cave. In the cave, he kills an aliens, takes his talisman and gets transported to Mars. Meanwhile on Mars, the bad guy has been given an ultimate weapon by some observers that will allow him to conquer the planet. See, one of the problems with this movie is the difficulty of the Martian language. I don’t recall the bad guys name being brought up much and it was difficult for me to remember. I know that is incredibly unprofessional of me but just look at the imdb page for this movie and see if you can make heads or tails of the names. John Carter is found by a race of Green Martians who hope to use his superior strength and jumping ability to give them a competitive advantage over other tribes. Because of differences in gravity, John Carter is stronger than he was on Earth, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

From there the plot and story get much more involved and I don’t want to just recap the entire movie. What I will say is that he falls in love with a human looking Martian. John Carter finds himself in the middle of a World War with The Observers pulling the strings. At first he wants to get back to Earth but his priorities change over time.

The biggest flaw in the movie is the bad guys plan. The Observers gave a super weapon to the lesser Bad Guy to take over the world. But they also want him to marry John Carter’s Martian girlfriend because….. I’m not sure. But that’s a major plot point for half of the movie. An Observer explains to John Carter, and this is a spoiler, that they are immortal and they feed off of war on dying planets to sustain themselves. The problem is, if they feed of war, why do they need Bad Guy to marry John Carter’s Martian Girlfriend? Shouldn’t they just want him to wage war and lay waste to everything in sight? And everything they say might be a lie as soon as they say they are immortal. We already saw John Carter kill one of the Observers so clearly they are not immortal. So if we know that is a lie, which we do, then how are we suppose to believe anything else they are saying? Why would they tell John Carter the truth behind their plan, particularly when they admit they are working on destroying Earth too? So by the end of the movie, I was still questioning the Observers plan. Why were they doing this? What did they have to gain? How does killing all of Mars further their race at all? I never got a satisfactory explanation for any of these things and the explanation I did get, I chalked up as a lie meant to demoralize John Carter.

But that is not the reason this movie failed. In fact, I have a hard time telling you why this movie failed other than general apathy. There was a lot of fun to be had in this movie. The comic relief felt organic as oppose to shoe horned in. They kept a light hearted feeling while not being annoying or distracting from the over all story. The action sequences were epic, although I felt they could have gone farther. The acting was good. The story was deep and involving, maybe too much since I still don’t know what the Observers plan really was. There was an excellent twist at the end. A lot of the scene had tension and drama that played well. Far worse movie have succeeded at the box office and I’m kind of sad their won’t be  a sequel. John Carter of Mars mixed action, drama, and comedy very well. It deserves a better fate than the one it received. I recommend this movie although not too enthusiastically. If you have a chance to watch it, you absolutely should. I believe you will have a good time with this one.

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