…AND THE MARTIANS (OR BARSOOMIANS) CALL HIM VIRGINIA?
First impressions don’t always determine your overall opinion of a movie. Some movies deliver above and beyond your expectations even if they’re impossibly low. Even though John Carter is a solid movie, it didn’t really exceed my low expectations.
First and foremost, John Carter is a light and fun movie with a lot of cool battles, visual effects and scattered laughs. It’s not a horrible movie. There are more than a few entertaining moments. But it’s one of those movies that a lot of people will be on the fence about. It’s never a good sign when the trailers aren’t mind blowing causing people to wonder if it’s worth a shot. I try to give films a shot regardless of the hype they build (or fail to build). So I caught John Carter on opening night because I love big blockbuster adventures. It was a 9:55 showing and there was about 35-40 people in the theater… Yuck.
Here’s the thing, when you watch a Science Fiction movie based in a new world, there are always words and names that you must learn. Discovering a new world is a big part of why movies like John Carter are made. People like to visit alien worlds and become immersed in places they’ve never seen.
Mars, or Barsoom as the locals call it, is definitely like nothing you’ve ever seen on the big screen but holy crap it was difficult to follow at first. The prologue attempts to give the audience a brief history of the conflict on the red planet but it’s overkill in terms of names, locations and terms you have to remember.
Once John Carter arrives on Mars it gets a little worse. Many names sounded the same to me and I couldn’t really remember them all until they were repeated several dozen times. As the movie ended, I asked my friend if he could name 5 characters not named John… Didn’t happen.
However, John Carter seemed to pick things up pretty quickly though. Although all he had to do was drink some water… Maybe it’s just different for people who didn’t read the books.
Tharks, Therns, Tars Tarkis, Tardos, Tal, Thoris, Than…
Those are just a few of the ‘Ts’. Say that 5 times fast and then try to remember which one is which.
I’m willing to concede that going in, I had no clue what the story was. A part of that has to do with the marketing campaign. For example, You get a sense that Therns are bad but they don’t really give you a lot of information in the actual movie, let alone the trailers. So these guys drain the life out of inhabited worlds through manipulation and control? Did I get that right? How does that translate into energy? I hear the water is pretty magical.
It’s a little strange that these all knowing beings who believe themselves to be immortal don’t seem to be aware that they can be shot. These are minor gripes but it adds up.
Trying to get into this world was hard for me. I kept snapping out of it. Before the end, I was simply waiting for the next action sequence which is most definitely the strongest element in John Carter. The action is pretty fantastic with a variety of different fights and battles.
There is an awesome scene when our gravity defying hero goes bananas on an army of Tharks. (The multi limbed green folk with tusks) While he fights, the intensity is ramped up as he thinks about the loss of his wife. It fuels each and every swing of his sword. It’s really great stuff.
MORE WOOLA PLEASE
My favorite part of the movie was John’s speedy and loyal ‘dog’ Woola. What a great character. I laughed every time that creature was on screen.
Here he is, ready to take on all comers.
Let’s do this! I’ve got your back John!
At the end of the day, there were many things I liked about John Carter but not enough to add up to a truly memorable experience. If you’re on the fence about seeing the film in theaters my advice is to wait and rent the film On Demand in a few months. I suppose fans of the series will line up but early box office doesn’t indicate they did which is unfortunate.
Let’s hope the film has legs.
JOHN CARTER in 2: Woola, Speed