Edgar Rice Burroughs' classic science fantasy novel from 1917 finally gets the adaptation that has been long awaited for, for almost an entire century. Burroughs' deep, thought-provoking fantasy world is what sparked the science-fiction genre to what it is today. Let's not think about "Star Wars" or "Avatar" when watching John Carter, but instead let's look at this film as the origin of science-fiction. For that much I respect John Carter as an original piece and not the "science-fiction classic wannabe" that some baffling idiots seem to be calling it. However, as dreamy and unbelievably wonderful the story that Edgar Rice Burroughs has created is, Disney just doesn't seem to bring it enough justice.
John Carter had all the cards on the table to be the next science-fiction classic. This is a piece that could have been greater, quite possibly bigger, than James Cameron's Avatar. As visually-stunning Avatar was, the storyline is nowhere near comparable to the epic proportions of the Barsoom series. What Burroughs created is a universe to remember, one that is complex and fun at the same time. It's a damn shame that the Barsoom series never got the green light or attention it deserved almost a century away from its prime. Even now that the film has finally released, I can't say it's received any justice for its absolute wonderfulness. Leave it up to Disney to ruin that.
"John Carter of Mars", "John Carter and the Princess of Mars", or even the book's original title, "A Princess of Mars" all would have been much better titles than the boring and unremarkably bland title, "John Carter". What is one to think after witnessing such an epic trailer and then it being sunken down by such an unsatisfying title? The title doesn't attract much attention, nor does it even make people want to talk about the film. Imagine if "Stars Wars" was instead titled "Luke Skywalker" or if "Pirates of the Caribbean" was just "Jack Sparrow". See where I'm getting at here? Unattractive movie titles aren't ones to be remembered and hands down a film like this coming from such a famous novel doesn't deserve such un-satisfaction.
Since 1931 John Carter has been trying to push a film-version so desperately. It all started with Looney Tunes director Bob Clampett who approached Burroughs himself with an animated-feature film idea. The film was completed in 1936 but was never released due to harsh criticism. If the film had been released however, it would have been the first American feature-length animated-film, not "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs". A bunch of different accounts occurred throughout history where different directors signed onto the project. Even in the 80s, the film was scheduled to be made to compete with "Stars Wars" but the directors found that technology just hadn't advanced well enough yet. In more modern times, Robert Rodriquez even signed on to adapt the novel. After releasing "Sin City", he expressed full interest in the project, including Frank Miller to help co-direct the film, but after a lot of controversy surrounding the project, they both decided to back down.
Then, of course, the dream director for the film helmed his hands on the project: Jon Favreau. If Favreau and Paramount Studios had been able to keep the project in his hands I truly believe that John Carter could have turned out to be the epic adaptation it deserved to be. Reading a bunch of articles on Favreau's past involvement, he certainly had a lot of passion for the project. It's a damn shame Disney took the rights back and turned it all into...well, this.
When Disney gained the rights to the project back, production began moving forward on the project in 2007, but much more closely in 2008 after Andrew Stanton released his animated masterpiece, "WALL-E". As for the direction in "John Carter", I can give Stanton plenty of credit for bringing Barsoom to life and showing how incredibly beautiful the universe that Burroughs created is. The only real issues I had with John Carter were its messy script and poor choice of actors to bring the characters to life.
After starring on NBC's well-liked series version of "Friday Night Lights", Taylor Kitsch was given the opportunity of a lifetime to play the title character, John Carter. Kitsch may have the look of John Carter and may even be a pro when it comes to the action-sequences, but his acting talents here just didn't justify the character that John Carter was in the books. Disney has already changed so much from the original product that I wish they made John Carter more of a fun character and less of a complete bore. Kitsch spits out his lines like he's in horrible pain and for us, the audience, it's tough to like such a boring character. This film was the chance for audiences around the world to know and even love John Carter, but days after the film's release I can't remember one memorable scene this film had to offer for the character.
Other performances in the film aren't as lifeless and I'll give Lynn Collins a little credit for her performance in the film as the "Princess of Mars". My only complaint is the fact that her chemistry with Taylor Kitsch is lost and almost never found. John Carter is supposed to play off as an epic love-story yet these two leads have little to no chemistry. Poor casting choices indeed and this only goes to show that Andrew Stanton is only capable of directing animated-feature films, unless the sequel (if ever made) steps it up a notch. On an animated aspect, the voice-talents of William Dafoe here are wonderful. That's about all the good that come from the film.
John Carter is an absolute visual-wonder, there's no questioning that. It only brings me back to last year's "Sucker Punch", however, where that film was highly-anticipated as well and turned out to be complete crap and nothing but bizarre eye-candy. John Carter plays out almost the exact same way only being a tad bit more enjoyable (probably because of the IMAX glazing). Reading around, a lot of people seem to be comparing John Carter to "Prince of Persia". The two are completely different films and it baffles me that people are even comparing them to each other. Since they are, I'll chip in my two cents, however; Prince of Persia is hands down a better film. It's far more fun, it has the humor, the excitement, and far more superior action-sequences. Not just that but the chemistry between both leads is fun, exciting, and it actually works. Not saying Prince of Persia was great or anything, but compared to John Carter, yes, it's a lot better.
There you have it...the first real disappointment of the year. Let the Hunger Games begin!
Thanks for the read!
-Written by Corey Wood