Wednesday, March 21, 2012

John Carter of Mars

Well, I watched John Carter with mixed reactions. It was visually gorgeous with its landscapes, cities and weird flying machines (which bore some resemblance to the things in Cowboys and Aliens) and the creatures were spot on. I loved the Tharks which often seemed to be better actors than the humans and the star of the show had to be Woola which, but for the fact it was a six-legged amphibian, was the spit of a Staffordshire bull terrier my brother once owned. At times I also got a bit of a lump in my throat because this was John Carter of Mars from the books of Edgar Rice Burroughs which were some of those that introduced me to science fiction.

However, I didn’t like the interplay between Carter and Deja Thoris. I felt the urge to giggle inanely and hide my face in embarrassment. I found them both unconvincing and frankly feel that the arch baddy would have been better cast as Carter, while the princess was just eye-candy. A lot of the acting seemed B-movie and flat, but then that might also be down to the directing.

The jumping was plain silly – yes Carter had Earth muscles and was stronger etc. but him jumping half a mile while carrying someone was ridiculous. Now, I can’t remember how that was in the books and it might well have been some of the silliness of them coming through… Also, were metal and stone somehow weaker on Mars? I can’t remember.

Did the books have too many faults that could not easily transfer to the modern age? Were they in themselves just too silly and dated? I don’t think so. I live in an age when fiction from my formative years is appearing on the screen with the required CGI. I still think the first new Spiderman movie is great, Conan the Barbarian couldn’t have been better and better cast (I read the Robert E. Howard books about the same time as I was reading the Carter books) and Lord of the Rings left me gob-smacked. 

I did enjoy this film, but would I have enjoyed it without the nostalgic connection in my mind? In the end, without that connection, it would have been a film consigned to the category ‘it was okay’ which, of course, is not the result you’re after when you spend 200 million. 


Phil M said...

It looks good but that doesn't mean anything these days. I've never read the books so I'll give the movie a go but on DVD as I've no time for this 3D nonsense and even less time for cinemas, (I need a pause button, my own loo and no general public.. it's an age thing!)

Killer Kalamity said...

I totally agree with the Asher's opinion here. It's interesting that the movie took "the main idea" from I think it was the first 4 books, lumped them into one in an attempt to make a more "exciting story" and then called it a day. Perhaps this is why the movie felt so, disconnected at times. But hey, sci fi in the cinema is sci fi...better then alot of the crap that's been coming out lately!

vaudeviewgalor raandisisraisins said...

looking back it just seemed like a film made to express cgi fx by suits. surprised you liked Woola, it was the most saccharine thing i'd seen on screen since the dragons in Game of Thrones.
glad someone liked it.

like Cowboys and Aliens it started off ok...then the douche Hwood element began to rear the ugly carpeting of generic formulae. bleh vs meh.

Neal Asher said...

Phil, maybe the best choice. I'm finding the 3D thing a bit of a pain too what with astigmatism in my left eye - that's an age thing too.

Killer, yes, lumping it all together like that it almost seems like they were preparing for failure, which considering how much they spent seems strange.

Vaude, I didn't say it in the review but I did suspect the dead hand of the Hollywood suits. Too many cooks and no clear vision.

Pippa Jay said...

With CGI, you expect them to look good. Sadly a lot of the film makes seem to think having stunning special effects means they can throw the story out the window.

Neal Asher said...

A long time complaint of mine, Pippa. Gob-smacking sights and loud crash bang and not much in the way of story. There was story here, however. Admittedly I couldn't see the point of the 3D - there was nothing coming out of the screen like in Avatar.

Martin P said...

I agree that showing the movie in 3D was a bit pointless - no 3D effects at all that stood out.

In the end it was an OK action flick - hey, at least it made me want to buy the books on my kindle.

Just saw Hunger Games, which I guess they classify as sci-fi too? I don't know, they had advanced tech, but it wasn't used much. I'll be buying those books for my kindle too, though.

osh said...

Seeing as hunger games have been mentioned - does anyone know how it compares to battle royale (both the book and film)

Ed S. said...

Like other oldsters I grew up with Edgar Rice Burroughs, the Tarzan, the Mars, Venus books. The bookstores were filled with his paperbacks with their lurid fantasy covers. Fast forward to today and I simply can't recall seeing one of his books last time I was in a bookstore browsing the Fantasy section. I doubt his name rings any bells with the younger generation. Not surprisingly I don't think they used the Burroughs name in the promotions and they even lopped off the "Mars" in the title. The author and his books don't ring any bells with today's audience.

Compare that to the Hunger Games. Best selling author, popular book. The movie was a no brainer in that there was a primed audience out there waiting for it.

This is just the wrong era to bring out a Burroughs movie and I doubt the studios will make that mistake again. I am really surprised they made the mistake in the first place. I haven't seen it but I suspect that even if it had been a really good movie the theaters might have still been empty.