I was fortunate enough to catch an IMAX 3D screening of John Carter yesterday. Directed by Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo and Wall-E) and starring Taylor Kitsch as the sparsely clothed title character, John Carter, we were brought on an adventure from the post civil war U.S. to obviously Mars. We followed John, a former Confederate Captain, mining for gold in Arizona who somehow stumbles upon a transport to a totally unrecognizable and fully populated Mars. From here he is introduced to a long going war in Mars and its inhabitants who want to use his super jumping skills and strength (due to the lower gravity in Mars) to their causes in the battle. Along the way he falls for a Martian princess (who coincidently looks human) and must ultimately save her from the bad guys.
Check out the 10 minute of the film.
You could definitely tell that Andrew Stanton was a definite fan of the book when he was younger, and he would have to be to choose this project as his first live action film after creating some of the best Pixar animated films. You can feel the fanatical detail that only someone who really cared for the project would do. Yet this is a double edge sword. For the most part the people who are watching John Carter are people who have not read the books so they are coming in at a bit of a disadvantage, they don’t know the characters and places as well as those who read the book. Unfortunately, the movie struggles to figure out what is the best way to please everyone in the audience. When I was watching the film I got the sense there was way more behind the side characters than the few lines of dialogue instead the movie tried to focus our attention solely on John Carter and his Martian Princess.
This super condensed feeling is apparent through the entire film; I got the feeling as if I was watching the movie through the eyes of a 12 year old boy. Think of it this way, try to remember a story you loved when you were that age. You remember all the action and pseudo-sexual innuendo, you remember the main characters and everything seems to be much bigger, spectacular and melodramatic. That in a sense is all you need to know about John Carter, this is Andrew Stanton trying to relieve his memories of the character out on the silver screen in IMAX and 3D.
Unfortunately, it cheats the kids coming into seeing the film from being able to experience the same thing, he has already digested it for us, leaving so little to the imagination that I fear that kids wont want to read the books, which is a shame. It is almost the opposite of the Lord of the Rings, the epic detail put into the films gave us a sense of wonder as well as a sense of curiosity, kids and adults alike went from watching the movie then to wanting to read the book. I did get that feeling leaving the theater last night.
Yet it isn’t the entire director, the source material is from a different time, when cowboys and Indians were the height of adventure for children. This was a time where Heroes always saved the day and the princess no matter the odds. This was a time in United States with different ideas and priorities. A place where different expectations were placed on their heroes and for better or worse this isn’t that United States any more. John Carter is an antiquated hero being brought to life in a modern world, kind of like Captain America. Yes, I agree with the technology of today, the rendering of the Martian world was amazing and the 3D was quite literally out of this world, but I am still left with the question whether John Carter was better off left in the confines of paper and ink rather than on film.
Disclaimer: We recieved free tickets to attend the preview showing.