Friday, July 10, 2015

Movie #316: John Carter

John Carter is a sci-fi movie starring Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Willem Dafoe, Dominic West, and Mark Strong. It's based on the A Princess of Mars novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and it's really underrated.

The titular Carter (Kitsch) is a former cavalryman who just wants to find his cave o' gold and retire and bad all sad. He winds up accidentally getting transported to Barsoom (Mars), and is immediately captured by the four-armed, green Tharks, the chieftain of which (Dafoe) spares him because he's a compassionate sort. Carter, superstrong and agile due to mumblemumblegravitysomething, makes a nuisance of himself, makes friends with an awesome Martian dog-thing, and saves the life of the Princess of Mars, Deja (Collins). Just so happens she's also a scientist, and tries to send him home to Jasoom, but really just wants to use his kickass fighting prowess to win the war against Sab Than (West), the evil overlord of the Predator City.

So, at the guts of it, it's pretty much a "white savior" movie, except that the culture that the white dude comes in and saves isn't a real one, and he doesn't do it by adopting their ways and becoming better at them but because he has super powers.

This movie was a box office disappointment for Disney, but I really do feel like they fucked themselves out of the money. The movie's a little long, but not so much that it drags, and the plot is a little convoluted, what with the Therns and the bad guys and good guys all being vaguely red white people, but my kids followed it just fine, and you get enough exposure to the various cultures to get a sense of them. I think that Disney really just didn't put enough time into appropriately marketing the movie, and, of course, A Princess of Mars or even John Carter of Mars would have been a lot more interesting a title than John Carter.

I think Kitsch is OK as Carter, though perhaps not exceptional. I like Collins as Deja Thoris, who manages to convey someone who's trying to hold on to her life and her integrity even if she's in a circumstance she can't stomach. Mark Strong is appropriately, calmly menacing as Matai Shang, the lead Thern. The movie's effects are a lot of fun, and Woola, the Martian version of my dog Si, are always good for a laugh.

It's good pulp fantasy, and it's a shame the Disney didn't know what to do with it.

My Grade: B+
Rewatch value: Medium-high

Next up: Judgment at Nuremberg