Friday, March 9, 2012

Review: John Carter

It usually takes me a while to mentally digest a movie in order to decide how much I like it. It makes it harder when its a movie that I've anticipated for so long, thirty-one years to be exact. To make a short statement, though, I will say I liked the Disney film John Carter. It probably won't make my top ten or twenty list of all-time favorites, but it had some good action, effects, humor and a functional plot.

I am a little disappointed, however. Most of that might be because of having such high expectations and then not having them met. It's kind of like the finale to the TV series Lost. It was a functional ending to the series, but fell far short of the expectations that the audience had. It wasn't necessarily bad, just not as jaw-dropping amazing as the fans wanted. That's the feeling I have with John Carter: functional. I'm thinking I might of enjoyed it more if I hadn't been a big fan of the books since I was a teenager.

One pleasant surprise was how much of the book was actually in it. We get John Carter getting transported from an Arizona desert onto Mars (with his clothes on, thankfully). His first encounter with the martians, or Tharks, was at an egg incubator. We also get the wedding of Dejah Thoris to Sab Than only this time it is more central to the plot of the movie. I think this is an improvement over the book since in the book it seemed like an afterthought. Of course, we do need to keep in mind that the book started life as a serial, which didn't have as centralized of a plot as we're used to today.

Another thing I really liked was that they preserved the science of light that Burroughs had in his books. They gave Dejah a little more roll in this, but that was okay. I also liked that they kept Edgar Rice Burroughs in the story as a character.

They also kept the part of how John Carter had to get used to moving in the lesser Martian gravity and even turned it into a humorous scene.

There are a couple of things that come to mind that I didn't like. Well, for one, there was no egg at the end. I'm not sure why they didn't have it in there, because it is such a big part of the continuing story. If you don't know what I'm talking about, that's okay.

The other thing was the Tars Tarkas-Sola relationship story. It was in there but thrown in quickly. I like the way it came out in the book better.

Also, a big theme of the book was on converting a blood-thirsty and savage society with kindness. It was how John Carter gained the trust of Woola (his "dog") and his thoats. I know you can't get all those things woven into the film, but it was one of my favorite parts of the book and a part of John Carter's character.

I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about the changing of John Carter's character. I guess it had to be done, though, in order to create a better character arc. He really didn't have much of one in the books. In the movie, they had to take him down a peg and make him an uncaring social outcast who has to find out what he really does care about. It worked and the movie had some good scenes as he makes his discoveries. They did keep the theme of him going from one civil war on Earth only to find himself embattled in another civil war on another planet. If anything, the movie made that a little more pronounced.

I'm also not sure about bringing the Therns in so early and changing their nature. It did make the plot more functional for the film and changed some of the teleportation "magic" from the book into more of a science. I need to reread the rest of the series, though, to find out how much they changed the Therns.

So, there you have it. I'll probably think of some other things as I continue to ponder it, but I wanted to throw out my initial thoughts. Bottom line: it's a fun, action/adventure movie. Go see it. But there is a lot of blue blood spilled and some revealing clothing, so it may not be for younger viewers. Just for reference, the Kids In Mind rating gave it a 2 (sex/nudity), 6 (violence/gore), and 4 (language) on a scale of 10.


Angie said...

I haven't ever read the book, but I do want to see the movie. Then I'll for sure have to read the book! Thanks for the review.

Berin Stephens said...

You have to read the books. They are a little dated but at the same time seem new compared to the modern stuff. The nice thing about them is that most of them are available for free.