Wednesday, 13 February 2013

John Carter from Mars: 5/10

Release Date: 9th March 2012
Length: 2 hours 12 mins
Rating: 12A

This one is a difficult one, I'll admit. I went to see this with my Dad, being a big fan of comics and graphic novels, and my brother. It's been a while since we went to the cinema together as a family, though I'll admit it would have been nicer if my sister was there too.

I'll say straight up that I don't like watching films in 3D. I have an "excrutiatingly small head" (Eddie's words) so the generic and rather large 3D glasses slip down my nose and sometimes off of my ears. Concentrating through 3D glasses also gives me a headache. All told I'd rather pay less for the "layman's" non-3D showings.

The whole story was told as just that - a story. The premise of the story is that John Carter (Taylor Kitsch, a relative newcomer with roles in 'Snakes on a Plane', 'The Covenant' and 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine') has died, and his nephew Edgar is in the process of inheriting his whole estate. He is given a journal, which he begins reading immediately from beginning to end. (Honestly, in the same situation given a deceased uncle's journal, I would probably never read it, or at the very least I would not knuckle down immediately and get on with it!). For whatever reason, Edgar is interested in the contents of the journal.

Aside: Edgar (played by Daryl Sabara of 'Spy Kids') is actually Edgar J. Borroughs, original author of the 'John Carter of Mars' series of novels . I guess the premise of that is that he goes on to write or publish the journal as the writer of the 'story', though perhaps a fan could put me right on that one.

The story continues to show how John Carter came to be on Mars, how he stumbled across the community of Tharks with their resident troublemaker Sola (Samantha Morton)and how he met with the princess of helium, Dejah Thoris of the "red men"(Lynn Collins, also with a part in 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' but with what seems like a longer CV on IMDB than Taylor Kitsch). Having read a couple of the character bios on IMDB, a couple of things make a little more sense.

In the movie they explain that Dejah, princess of Helium must marry Sab Than, king (jeddak) of Zodanga. (According to the books, he is not really a jeddak at this point as his father is still alive.) By marrying, the two would hope to resolve any tension between the two nations and end the wars. However, the marriage has been arranged by Dejah's father Tardos Mors (jeddak of Helium) and Dejah is reluctant, to say the least. John Carter is caught up in the wars between the two nations, with a side story with the Tharks who are not involved in the war between the "red men" and the "white apes".

The film has its moments. Sola is an interesting character who I would have liked to see more of. Her pet 'Woola' (lizard-dog) offers light comic relief in the form of a rather chubby but super-fast creature reminiscent of "Heimlich" of 'A Bug's Life'. A special power of John Carter's is evident the minute he sets foot on Mars, which helps him to achieve his goals whilst he is there. Some of the effects are pretty good, despite the 3D aspect - for example, some large and scary blind gorilla-type creatures with tusks which are very well done.

However, the film is so confusing. I didn't understand what was going on half of the time, and some of what I've written above has had to be backed up by people's reviews and explanations on IMDB. I wouldn't say that Taylor Kitsch was an amazing actor - nor would I say I particularly appreciated Lynn Collins as Dejah. My favourite characters were played by Samantha Morton (Sola) and Willem Dafoe (Tars Tarkus - also of the Tharks) who are both very good actors. But this film was a bit of an obstacle for Disney and I think there are several parts of the film which required more explanation or simplification. I'm not sure this film is "my kind of film". I liken it to 'Serenity' and 'Star Wars', both of which I watched out of interest and found easy enough to understand but wouldn't say I loved them. On top of it all, Disney has reportedly made a loss of around $200 million on this film; Disney's biggest flop to date.

My enjoyment and understanding of the film taken into consideration, I think I'd have to give this a 5/10.

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