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    John Carter (Movie Review)

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    Paeter
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    John Carter (Movie Review)

    Post  Paeter on March 9th 2012, 8:05 pm

    I'm not familiar with the writing of Edgar Rice Burroughs or his character, John Carter. So I went into this movie only knowing that it was based on some stories written at least 50 years ago or more. (Actually closer to 100.) My ignorance was aided by the nearly non-existent marketing campaign for this movie. Was this just a big "whoops" on the part of Disney, or did they realize this was a terrible movie and didn't want to waste any more money on it?

    "John Carter" is about an American Civil War veteran who lost his family after the war and now bitterly lives only for selfish gain. He is whisked away to Mars, where he discovers that it is not airless and lifeless as humanity had believed, but home to large civilizations on a downward spiral of self-destruction.

    Carter is captured, but escapes, only to find himself in the middle of a war that will decide the fate of the entire planet and all who live on it. His alien anatomy and the low gravity of Mars give him relatively superhuman strength and the ability to leap amazing heights and distances. He must use every resource available to him to survive the conflict around him, and decide what his place in it should be.

    Carter is played by Taylor Kitsch, whom genre fans may recognize as "Gambit" from "X-men Origins: Wolverine". Kitsch is a great leading man who combines adventurous heroism with a brooding tone. The surrounding cast is also made up of familiar faces who do their jobs well, though there are no big stars and won't be any acting nominations for this movie next year.

    Dominic West plays the primary villain, and though he doesn't bring any interesting layers to his performance, he's just so suited to this kind of role that the lack of depth is easily forgivable.

    Mark Strong plays the mysterious big baddie pulling the strings behind West, though the mystery surrounding his character even at the end of the film implies an intended sequel.

    The love interest, a Princess of course, is played by Lynn Collins, whom Wolverine fans will also recognize as the love interest from that movie as well. Her character is a wonderful paradox in terms of her role as a "Princess" in an adventure movie. She can easily fend for herself, and then some, in battle, but still welcomes being literally swept off her feet by a rescuing hero. Usually, fiction leans too far one way or the other in this regard, but I found it to be a wonderfully well-rounded balance between strength and vulnerability in a leading lady.

    The world of Mars, or more properly "Barsoom", is fantastical in so many wonderful ways. Conceptually, this is a sci-fi story, with aliens on other planets and highly advanced technology. But it comes in the trappings of fantasy, with swords and armor and technology so advanced it looks like fantasy world magic. I'm a sucker for blending genres, so the setting scored pretty big points with me.

    The tone of the movie also blends opposing elements nicely. The loss of John Carter's family informs his motivation, which we see more as the film progresses. This keeps him from being a two-dimensional stereotype (like Han Solo in "A New Hope") and gives us a reason for sympathizing with his bitterness.

    On the other hand, the movie is full of fantasy adventure that demands we not take the story too seriously. The obviously bad science and the super-speed courtship between Carter and Dejah require a willingness to just turn a bit of our brains off and enjoy the ride. In this case, I was partially willing to do this, just because the setting and action was so fun, but it's still something I hope they will improve on or make less noticeable if another film is made.

    I'd also LOVE for Hollywood to collectively improve their ability to create and use computer generated characters. This movie has a lot of them. And I mean a LOT. Some of the most crowded scenes in the movie were probably the loneliest days for Taylor Kitsch, who must have spent weeks talking to tennis balls to make this flick.

    The resulting CG characters are every bit as good as those in the Star Wars prequels. And yes, that's an insult, folks. Actually, they may even be better in terms of texturing. But as always seems to be the case, the animation, not the texturing, is the problem. There is no subtlety in the movements or facial expressions of these CG characters. At least not compared to flesh and blood actors. To my eye, the realism of the animation is about the same as watching Mary Poppins dance with cartoon penguins.That said, many other effects are great-looking and the multitude of action sequences are candy for the eyes.

    Two themes in this film strike me as being relevant to real world spiritual matters. The first is John Carter's bitterness over what he has lost, which leads him to adopt a very selfish attitude toward those he encounters. It's hard to condemn him. So often when I feel I'm being mistreated, I can get into a little funk or pity party where I begin to believe I am entitled to certain things. But suffering does not entitle us to neglect doing what is good and right.

    The second theme is nothing new to the sci-fi genre. The true villains of this story are a race of mysterious, advanced aliens who conceal themselves from mortals while manipulating their lives on a grand scale, choosing leaders and deciding which nations will rise and fall. These beings are considered mythical messengers of "the goddess" by the people of Barsoom.

    The device being used here(which may have been original if used in Burroughs' original 1912 story, though is now overused) suggests that deities (and maybe even God himself) are only advanced alien life forms. Bigger, stronger, older and smarter versions of all of us, but with a detached, unloving relationship with those under them.

    The biblical picture of God is very different, portraying God as limitless, loving and completely different from whatever divine portrait our minds might invent.

    Although these themes are present, I think it's unlikely that many will feel inspired to think about them much after watching the movie.

    John Carter is a fantastical thrill ride that, while flawed, deserves a sequel and shouldn't be missed by any fan of sci-fi or fantasy.

    Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action

    Quality: 8.5/10
    Relevance: 6.0/10

    For information about my scoring system, visti spiritblade.net/reviewscores
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    Re: John Carter (Movie Review)

    Post  ProfessorAlan on March 10th 2012, 4:44 pm

    By happenstance, I read the book over the holidays, and enjoyed it. So I went in to the movie inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt. And despite its problems, overall I enjoyed it.

    The book was written before genres had become firmly entrenched in publishing, so the fact that Burroughs mixed fantasy, sf, romance, and andventure tropes was not unusual. But I wonder if modern fans will be as forgiving, as the movie definitely blends all those genres. "Hard SF" fans may not like the fantasy erlements, and vice versa.

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    Re: John Carter (Movie Review)

    Post  mindspike on March 11th 2012, 10:55 pm

    I'm surprised Paeter didn't mention Dejah's character arc, evolving from a self-important self-absorbed person into one who places duty above personal happiness. Carter's character arc was cleverly handled, I thought, with him finally accepting a surrogate wife and daughter as he buries his deceased family, even as his old life is "buried".

    I didn't have any problems with the performances, even by the Tharks. I was also happy enough with Matias explanation of the Therns' motivation. I guess I'm generally more forgiving of the technical and character stuff than Paeter is.

    I really enjoyed this movie, both as an interpretation of the source material and on its own. To be fair, I may be a bit prejudiced - I'm a huge Edgar Rice Burroughs fan. Even so, I had to laugh at the impact of modern perception on the story, things like making Dejah Thoris a professor (warrior princess just don't cut it no more) or turning the Therns into beings powered by superscience used to impersonate godlike personas (NOT a Burroughs trope, Paeter).

    As an action-adventure flick, I loved it. I want more. This film was not about strong treatment of theme or character, it was about finding excuses for John Carter to whup Martian butt. I'll take it!


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    Re: John Carter (Movie Review)

    Post  Guest on March 13th 2012, 3:29 am

    Well, I have to say I really enjoyed the movie! I didn't turn off my brain, though...

    From what I can gather, the source material of Edgar Rice Burrough's books are one of a number of influences that informed the original Star Wars (1977) movie, and I think the pacing of SW is credited as being drawn from the ERB Mars series.

    I expected an adventurous story; and was pleased at the extra effort they made to put some heart and unpretentious fun into it. It took a little bit of time for it to gain momentum, and I was only briefly worried by the performance of the actor playing Edgar Burrough's, but fortunately he is not there for long.

    I guess my discriminating eye for CGI is not what it once was, the creatures that John Carter mingles with for a generous portion at the beginning of the movie didn't draw me out of the movie. Of all things, I confess that I liked and worried for the safety of that fun "dog" creature, who I felt was well characterized enough in expression that I was afraid the poor guy would be killed to get a reaction out of us. And for cynic's out there, no, I am not saying that the "dog" critter trumped my interest in the other characters, heck, I liked the princess dad; and yes, John Carter and Dejah as well.

    Mindspike, thanks for pointing out the symbolism of John Carter's family burial juxtaposed with his acceptance and fighting for a new beginning; I didn't pick up on that, it makes the movie even better for me.

    I must say, I've seen a lot of mainstream entertainment media critics trouncing the movie. I've seen this go in cycles, they seem to be hitting the more cynical end of the pendulum swing; I'm afraid they've lost their way. To be so down on this movie, well it's like kicking John Carter's happy monster puppy...

    Don't kick John Carter's dog. He will punch you dead with one blow. Very Happy

    Err...Han Solo...two dimensional...ouch...what's that about...? tongue

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    Re: John Carter (Movie Review)

    Post  DNArington on March 13th 2012, 9:07 pm

    Great! Smile I'm glad you liked it! I'm looking forward to seeing it all the more now!

    As for why there are so many similarities between John Carter and Star Wars, Star Wars was actually heavily influenced by the John Carter book. study
    (More info and what other movies were influenced by JC: http://moviepilot.com/movies/40236-john-carter/containers/373616-5-movies-you-love-which-would-not-exist-without-john-carter?utm_campaign=john-carter-deserves-respect&utm_source=fb-stream-post&utm_medium=fb-stream-post )


    Also for you folks who haven't seen the movie yet Disney Movie Rewards is giving out tickets to those who have certain movies. Just enter the code from your copy into their website and BANG you got yourself a ticket to see John Carter. For info => http://www.disneymovierewards.go.com/promotions/special-offers/johncarter?cmp=dmov_dmr_hero_gwp_johncarter

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    Re: John Carter (Movie Review)

    Post  DNArington on March 13th 2012, 9:20 pm

    Desert Kris wrote:From what I can gather, the source material of Edgar Rice Burrough's books are one of a number of influences that informed the original Star Wars (1977) movie, and I think the pacing of SW is credited as being drawn from the ERB Mars series.

    Whoops I didn't see that you already said something about that..... Neutral

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    Re: John Carter (Movie Review)

    Post  BenAvery on March 20th 2012, 3:10 pm

    I found myself really enjoying John Carter. It was a movie made for someone like me, I think. My co-host on the podcast said it was made for people with 11-year-old sensibilities. Sure, I could go with that.

    I thought it was a truly valiant attempt, and when it failed it failed because it was taking risks and when it succeeded I enjoyed it even more because it was taking risks. I mean, this was a science fiction movie that, aside from a slightly confusing prologue, started off as a period piece, went into a flashback, followed a Confederate soldier, and when it finally made it to Mars the Martians perform infanticide!

    I do think they overcompensated the princess character a bit -- was there anything she couldn't do, and do perfectly? But that's a mild quibble.

    I found the FX to be engaging as well. Yes, they aren't practical FX, but ultimately whether I am looking at a foam puppet or a digital puppet, I know that a four armed, ten-foot tall alien isn't real. The question is, am I willing to go along for the ride?

    I was.

    Really too bad there will be no sequel, as people dog pile on it, dancing on its grave.

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    Re: John Carter (Movie Review)

    Post  Hackmodford on March 20th 2012, 4:52 pm

    I think I would enjoy a sequel just as much as I enjoyed the movie.


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    Re: John Carter (Movie Review)

    Post  cleireac on March 21st 2012, 9:49 am

    Ben, I already posted this on the S&A comments for John Carter, but thought it would be appropriate here as well:

    Now that I've slept on it a bit, I feel like I need to take issue with the 'infanticide' comment. While I think I understand what you are saying, I'm not sure that's the right description of what was going on. I'm basing this view on the fact that the eggs that were destroyed had not hatched yet. Therefore there were not hatchlings, or infants, to be murdered. So looking at it that way, at best (or worst), they would only be guilty of 'abortion.'

    I'm not sure that's technically accurate either. If you'll recall the scene, it appear that the Tharks lay their eggs in nests that are quite remote from their city. At a predertmined time, they return and collect the hatchlings and bring them home. The enst must be remote enough that they cannot return frequently, so any eggs that hatch after this visit would result in hatchlings that will be exposed to the elements and possibly starve or be eaten by larger predators (the white apes). So, in this view, the Tharks could be guilty of euthanasia, or 'mercy killing' by destroying the eggs before the young Tharks are 'born.'

    However, this also may not be accurate as we do not know the status of those eggs. Is it possible that the eggs were infertile, or that the young inside had already died? We simply do not know, and the Tharks destroyed the eggs purely to deprive the white apes and other predators of a delicacy.

    As you see, I'm not sure that it is quite fair to accuse the Tharks of infanticide; we simply do not know enough to make that determination.


    Last edited by cleireac on March 21st 2012, 9:52 am; edited 1 time in total

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    Re: John Carter (Movie Review)

    Post  Hackmodford on March 21st 2012, 9:51 am

    I don't think we can properly judge another species morality.

    I also believe that they weren't eggs but hatchlings... but I can't remember why I believe this.


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    Re: John Carter (Movie Review)

    Post  cleireac on March 21st 2012, 9:54 am

    Hackmodford wrote:I don't think we can properly judge another species morality.

    I also believe that they weren't eggs but hatchlings... but I can't remember why I believe this.

    I just saw it on Monday, and I recall the Tharks calling out to Tars Tarkas that there were several eggs that had not hatched yet.

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    Re: John Carter (Movie Review)

    Post  Hackmodford on March 21st 2012, 9:57 am

    cleireac wrote:
    Hackmodford wrote:I don't think we can properly judge another species morality.

    I also believe that they weren't eggs but hatchlings... but I can't remember why I believe this.

    I just saw it on Monday, and I recall the Tharks calling out to Tars Tarkas that there were several eggs that had not hatched yet.

    Okay... so it was basically an abortion Smile


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    Re: John Carter (Movie Review)

    Post  cleireac on March 21st 2012, 10:03 am

    Hackmodford wrote:
    cleireac wrote:
    Hackmodford wrote:I don't think we can properly judge another species morality.

    I also believe that they weren't eggs but hatchlings... but I can't remember why I believe this.

    I just saw it on Monday, and I recall the Tharks calling out to Tars Tarkas that there were several eggs that had not hatched yet.

    Okay... so it was basically an abortion Smile

    And that's presuming that we know the eggs were fertile or had not otherwise died in the shell. So you're initial comment about finding it difficult to judge another species is sound, simply because we just don't have enough information.

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    Re: John Carter (Movie Review)

    Post  Hackmodford on March 21st 2012, 10:03 am

    cleireac wrote:
    Hackmodford wrote:
    cleireac wrote:
    Hackmodford wrote:I don't think we can properly judge another species morality.

    I also believe that they weren't eggs but hatchlings... but I can't remember why I believe this.

    I just saw it on Monday, and I recall the Tharks calling out to Tars Tarkas that there were several eggs that had not hatched yet.

    Okay... so it was basically an abortion Smile

    And that's presuming that we know the eggs were fertile or had not otherwise died in the shell. So you're initial comment about finding it difficult to judge another species is sound, simply because we just don't have enough information.

    And it's just plain not any of our business right?


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    Re: John Carter (Movie Review)

    Post  BenAvery on March 21st 2012, 10:58 am

    The bottom line is: the movie opens with the aliens killing their young -- infanticide or abortion. And I make the point not to judge the aliens -- I make the point that this is a risky opening. Purposely risky, and a risk I would agree with. It sets the stage for the world and the species (I remember a comment about the ones that were left were not strong enough, and they killed them not out of any malice, but because they were saving them from the "white apes"). The following scene, in which the young are dumped out and fought over is another weird, alien culture moment. Finally, the whole thing sets up an interesting paternity subplot, and some motivations for the aliens to help (or not) John Carter.

    But the thing is, I was making that list as a list of risky storytelling choices he made. Choices not calculated to get as many possible key demographic numbers in the seats, but choices made to engage the viewer.

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    Re: John Carter (Movie Review)

    Post  Nathan James Norman on March 21st 2012, 12:47 pm

    BenAvery wrote:
    But the thing is, I was making that list as a list of risky storytelling choices he made. Choices not calculated to get as many possible key demographic numbers in the seats, but choices made to engage the viewer.

    I think you've summed-up the problem with so much of the mind-numbing storytelling we come across today . . . it tickles our intellects instead of engaging them.

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    Re: John Carter (Movie Review)

    Post  cleireac on March 21st 2012, 12:53 pm

    This was a neat article summing up the influence of the John Carter stories on the SF genre over the years: http://www.ramcigar.com/entertainment/john-carter-s-influence-felt-over-the-past-century-1.2822231#.T2oFFxEgeeF

    I was only tangentially familiar with the character before the movie. Now that I've seen it, I scored a free copy of 'A Princess of Mars' for my ereader, and am looking forward to getting better acquainted.

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