Monday, March 5, 2012

John Carter of Burbank

Last night Disney treated a select few to an early screening of its latest feature film John Carter. For the benefit of those without WIKIpedia, John Carter is based on the Edgar Rice Burros character, which has been around since 1912. After so many incarnations in comics and a few movies that never came to be, this is John Carter’s first appearance on the big screen.

But you’ve already seen this story.

Some did it very well; I’m talking to you Daniel Day Lewis. While some didn’t do it justice, I’m talking to you James Cameron. The story is in fact one of the earliest versions of the cliché: Man travels to foreign land, sheds skin, becomes one of the people of said land and finds unlikely love in that land.

Even though in many ways it’s the original version of that tale, John Carter could have been a victim of cliché. Instead Andrew Stanton, the Pixar visionary behind great stories like Toy Story and Finding Nemo reminded the audience that something becomes cliché because it’s originally worth repeating over and over again.

John Carter won’t take you on a lot of twist and turns story wise, however the plot remains solid without surrendering to the action. We get a great John Carter in former Gambit Taylor Kitsch and another super animated performance from Boondock Saint Willem Dafoe. Each important role in the film could have been a lesson for writers on how to give characters voice.

The visual of transforming Utah into Mars, creatures and all is the skeletal support of this film. Without drowning the viewer in dry red everything, Mars becomes a believable world on the brink of death. CG characters are so true to the actors and material, personally Dafoe is now my favorite Martian. Kitsch on screen superpowers make me believe this is what we’re all like when we become superman and get superpowers by going to an alien planet. Well choreographed action with complementary score, seems basic but still manages to go beyond film 101.

Bottom line, to all the skeptics like myself, relax this is John Carter of Mars.

Overall I give the movie a 4 out of 5 but the true importance of John Carter is to our current age of cinema. Beginning with the dark tone of Batman Begins, then that moment where we saw the first Watchmen trailer and now seeing a movie that some fans have waited more than twenty years for. John Carter solidifies this age of cinema as the age of the movie we thought we’d never get to see.

Thank you to L.A Times, and Geoff Boucher for hosting these events, it’s probably a lot of fun for you guys, but it can’t be easy. Hats off to you! Though I will not pay to read it online for $5.

- David N.

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