Genre: Sci-Fi Blockbuster/Action-Adventure Epic.
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Dominic West, Mark Strong, James Purefoy and Ciaran Hinds. And The Voices of: Samantha Morton and Willem Dafoe.
Running Time: 132 mins. approx.
Seen At: Stockport
On: Tuesday, 20th March, 2012.
Blockbuster cinema, produced on a huge scale, really doesn’t happen in any bigger fashion than John Carter. Based on the short story entitled The Princess of Mars written by Edgar Rice Burrows – also the creator of Tarzan – this is a prime example of massive, Hollywood, escapist, sci-fi spectacular, full to the brim with heroes, villains, spaceships and aliens.
It’s laden to the top with the most amazing special effects, even further enhanced by such a strikingly bold use of its 3D element – whether it’s an arrow being slung high into the air appearing to land only inches from your seat, or the blade of a sword stuck in your face. What this technique succeeds so well in doing, is actually immersing you, as the audience member, within the zeitgeist of the movie itself. This, definitely shares the same wonderfully surreal, hyper-reality atmosphere that a film like the recent TRON remake encapsulated so brilliantly.
The rise of 3D over the last few years particularly, being utilized as a mainstream tool has certainly split opinion. But I so strongly feel, that it always increases the enjoyment of the cinematic experience absolutely. This is especially the case when subtlety is the main aim, as with Hugo last year, or when it flourishes with a no-holes-barred extravagance as it does here, and I really hope, that three-dimensional longevity reigns proud over the multiplex for many years to come.
It starts off as quite a traditional Victorian western, in the equivalent of Indiana Jones as, in a rather neat tie-in, a young Mr. Rice-Burrows is seen in a study pouring over dusty textbooks written by his uncle, John Carter – the inspiration for his novels. They tell the tale of our charismatic hero trudging through the desert and discovering what he believes to be his heart’s desire – a cave full of gold – before accidentally stumbling upon a glowing-blue medallion which possesses magical properties. Pushing its button, he’s mysteriously transported to the planet Mars – actually named Barsoom. Suddenly, he’s acquired a new power, the ability to be able to jump high into the air, useful when needing to zoom and leap out of many a dangerous situation. He’s plunged directly into a war between the inhabitants of the city of Helium, made up of two sides, the villainous Red Army of humans, and the Green Army. The Green Army are populated by these tremendously tall, tusked, bizarre-looking, lime-coloured aliens with four arms – known as Tharks. Their faces are so expressive thanks to brilliant CGI animation, every possible emotion is captured perfectly. They’re desperate to preserve what’s left of the capital’s energy resource, but the destructive humans, led by the barbaric Sab-Than, only seek to use it for their own destructive ends, by shooting everything in their path down with a giant, fluorescent-blue gel. An exhilarating opening space-battle sees the two sides pitched against one-another, unleashing the full extent of the havoc, this new superpower can make…
Only the courageous John Carter can stop them of course, by becoming the Thark’s leader, as well as falling in love along the way with the beautiful Princess Deisha.
Star Wars is clearly a major influence, as is Prince of Persia along with, as mentioned, Indiana Jones.
I thought Taylor Kitsch was fantastic as Carter – charming, strong and instantly heroic – even if he does announce his name one too many times in these deep, dulcet Southern American tones.
Dominic West clearly enjoys himself and is wonderfully evil as Sab Than, the villain of the piece, and Lynn Collins is very passionate for her beliefs as the Princess heroine, who’s defiant in her refusal to marry the megalomaniacal Sab Than. They’re surrounded by an impressive supporting cast, including Mark Strong (as a clever shape-shifter), James Purefoy and Ciaran Hinds, surprising, as they’re not usually the sort of names you’d immediately associate with this kind of material. The likes of Willem Dafoe and Samantha Morton lend their voices as Tars and Sola, two of the Thark aliens.
My only criticism is the dialogue, particularly the complicated names for characters and places, which is initially quite confusing, but you soon become accustomed to it.
Visually, it’s simply a master-class in production design. The sets are lovingly crafted with the most magnificently detailed marble structures. Every penny of the colossal budget is up there on the screen, along with a suitably bombastic score to further compliment the picture’s epic quality. To me this is an absolute triumph for Disney, despite the present backlash of reports wrongly dubbing it as a flop.
Thrilling action, incredible effects, humour and a touch of romance. Superb.
Rating: * * * *