Film Review: JOHN CARTER

Release date: March 9, 2012
Director: Andrew Stanton
Writers: Andrew Stanton (screenplay), Mark Andrews (screenplay), Michael Chabon (screenplay), Edgar Rice Burroughs (story “A Princess of Mars”)
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Willem Dafoe, Thomas Hayden Church, Mark Strong, Dominic West, James Purefoy

We are sure by this point many of you have heard much about the recently released John Carter movie. Here in the US, it has failed to beat THE LORAX. It has already been deemed a flop by many. While this may be true numerically, as a film it was a rousing success. The press deeming it dead before it’s cold combined with uninspired trailers (not to mention a March release) seem to leave no room for success.

The plot is familiar enough to any fans of the genre. A man is suddenly transported to a faraway land (in this case Mars) and is immediately sucked into the conflict already in progress. As John learns about the world, he meets a princess in danger by an evil empire seeking the destruction of the planet. He must rally the troops and save the woman in order to ensure the safety of her people and the world. Seen it, right?

Wrong! Well, kind of right. You have seen the basic premise before, but not realized this perfectly in a very long time. The landscape and digital effects are breathtaking. The characters are funny and emotional. The battle scenes actually move the story instead of being an outlet for the director to show off his budget. In a particularly memorable scene, John Carter takes on a seemingly unbeatable swarm of enemies while interspersed with tragic scenes from his past. While it could have been cheesy, the effect was actually profoundly emotional. We both had goose bumps witnessing the duality of his heartbreak and heroism in the same moment.

There is no other word for this movie but incredible. Everything we love about science fiction and those who create it is embodied in this movie. It is Avatar without the platitudes. It is the new Star Wars trilogy, but with engaging characters. It is Stargate in the age of digital production. You cheer for the good guys, not simply because you are told they are good, but because you are connected with them.

To see this film fail would be a tragedy. We are both salivating for a sequel that seems destined never to come. While this is a review, it is also a plea to you. See. This. Movie. Not just because we want to see John’s further adventures, but because by the end, you will too. It is a marvelous story with amazing twists and turns. It is beautiful effects and brilliant acting. This movie holds the promise of what the digital age can do for storytelling and it is nothing short of magical.

Bryan VanMeter & Jo Schmidt