Saturday, March 10, 2012

John Carter in Theaters Now

I went to see John Carter yesterday, opening night. This movie is based on books (which I haven't read) by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the same fellow who wrote Tarzan, to give you an idea of what sort of story and from what era it is. Actually, it feels a little like Star Wars, as you will see as you read more here.

If you haven't seen the previews, the basic premise is this: in the late 1800's, Captain John Carter, a fighter of a man with nothing left to live for after he loses home, wife, and child, stumbles into a sacred cave and ends up getting transported to the next planet over, Mars. Because of the gravitational difference, he is much more powerful on Mars than on Earth, and the smallest of movements sends him reeling into the air until he figures out how to control himself. He ends up as a pet of sorts in the city of a tall warrior alien race worthy of Star Wars.

Meanwhile, the scientist princess of the Redmen, a human-looking race, is engaged to be married to a brute of a man who wants to control the planet, and in her flight from her would-be husband, she is rescued by a man who can jump from the ground to the airborne ships they ride: John Carter.

What neither of them realize is that events on the planet of Mars are being orchestrated by an immortal race with a sinister agenda, and John Carter is not part of their equation.

The movie has quite a few plotlines going, but it's only confusing at the beginning when things are getting set up. Unfortunately for the movie, this long set-up as well as the many names and languages being thrown around and the difficulty of understanding everything said due to accents, language, or just volume might turn the audience off. But if you are willing to give the movie a chance to establish its world(s), the payoff is great.

The intertwining plots make the world seem fuller (it is based on a book, which would spend some time world-building, after all). The princess is intriguing, being a scientist, a warrior, and sometimes a lady in distress, too. John Carter's character is set up brilliantly and humorously, and in fact, there are moments of humor interspersed throughout the movie. But it doesn't feel like comedy. It's done so well that you might miss some of it if you blink or tune out: a short line of dialog here, a slap across the back of the head there. Then, some of the humor is more obvious. There's a loveable dog-like monstrous creature. And John Carter's attempts to adapt to the gravity on Mars, not to mention a surprising moment in an arena involving lots of blue blood, add lightness to a movie that could have made the mistake of taking itself too seriously. But it doesn't, perhaps coming across as a glorified B movie, to begin with, but wasn't that Star Wars, too?

As far as morality goes, again, compare to Star Wars. The gore is similar, and the princess wears some clothes that will remind you a bit of Princess Leia's slave get-up. It's rated PG-13.

Though I wasn't sure what to think of the movie at the start, and though the romance started out a little cheesy (yes, of course, there's romance with the princess), I really enjoyed this movie. It all leads up to a grand finale with awesome battles and a clever nod to the author of the book. Treat yourself to some fun and go see it, too!

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