Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Movie Night: John Carter

I've been waiting to see this movie ever since I saw the first trailer. I liked it, but twenty-four hours later I didn't remember half of what I saw. The only scene that really stayed with me was the last one, where (Spoiler, but you'll see it coming from the first second of the film:) John shows up alive after all and tells Ned "Find a cause. Fall in love. Write a book. Do something with your life." I don't know why that particular bit had an impact on me, but it did.

The plot feels cliche. This is to be expected: the story is literally one hundred years old, and inspired most of the imitators that made it cliche. That doesn't fix the problem. The filmmakers try to make up the difference with spectacular action scenes. They mostly succeed; this is Burroughs, after all, not Jules Verne. But they're kind of a shallow thrill. Sure, John's wild leaping about is awesome, and the fight choreography is respectable, but there's no investment in them because the characters aren't interesting. John is your standard he-man action hero, add one past tragedy for angst and stir well. The movie does yeoman work trying to break Dejah out of her role as Chief Expositor And Damsel In Distress, but doesn't quite pull it off. The minor characters fare better, but they're... well, minor characters. Sola is sympathetic, but on the sidelines for most of the film. Kantos Kan (Dejah's bodyguard, who helps John escape from captivity,) is the most likeable character in the film, and in it for all of ten minutes.

With that said, though, there's plenty to like here. The worldbuilding is exemplary, and the visuals imaginative. A flying motorcycle is a collection of gears, levers, and solar panels fashioned into something resembling a dragonfly. A suit of armor is polished metal plates arranged in sharp angles, with a splash of bright red or blue. It's cheesy, yes, but it revels in its cheesiness.

They could have done better, but this isn't a bad film by any means. I got my money's worth and will definitely watch a sequel.

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