Saturday, June 16, 2012

Episode 4 - John Carter - 3/10

If ever there was a movie that I would have liked the main character to just pause the action, turn to the camera and do a monologue on what the hell is going on, John Carter would be at the top of my list. I watched this film all the way through the end credits, not out of respect for the hard-working men and women who put together this sci-fi madlib of a movie, but because my brain was turned to such mush that I forgot how to get up and walk out of the theatre.
John Carter originated in an 11-novel sci-fi series that began in 1911 and, 100 years later, apparently filmmakers still feel that the same kind of nonsensical, plot-hole loaded, tacky crap was going to make for decent entertainment. Perhaps this is my punishment for not reading books or I can assume that those who saw this when it came out were handed a brochure explaining how any of this movie made any sense. I obviously missed something here as it's sitting at a solid 7.0 on IMDB. Maybe us haters just wanted to block this movie from our memory banks and chose not put in our two sense.
Taking place in 1868 because you don't have to discuss satellite surveillance technology in 1868, John Carter is the bastard child of Disney and Stargate about a war hero that gets teleported to a far away planet (Mars, in this case), then gets thrust into a major war by a group of locals in desperate need of a savior despite that that savior is just looking to get back home.
That's about as much as I'm giving you of the actual plot because…that's about all that actually worked in my brain. Anyway, because of the difference in gravity, John Carter is a man of "superhuman" strength. He practically leaps every time he takes a step; his muscles are more developed and for that, he is stronger than just about anything on Mars, though the movie stopped caring about this when it was convenient and over-emphasized it when it made for a neat 3D effect.
Sadly though, the surroundings and the strength don't actually seem to matter to the main character. With the same shock and awe that Keanu Reeves had when he learned Kung Fu, John Carter moseyed along his Mars expedition, fulfilling prophecies, uncovering conspiracies, performing acts of heroism and then...ummm…drudging on as if this was normal. I had this same problem with Green Lantern where Hal Jordan just passed off his breath-taking new experience as "just another day at the office."
John Carter's character is one without depth but, because of a series of Civil War flashbacks, we're made to believe that he is damaged and traumatized. He's a war hero that doesn't want to fight but wants to go off and search for a cave of gold, which fits for the whole Gold Rush period in America during those years, but the movie forgets to give you that little history lesson and instead, John Carter just looks like a loon that throws temper-tantrums and doesn't want to do anything really productive and for that, I struggled to take his heroism seriously. There's no sign that any of his actions are granting any sort of forward psychological progression and for that, these flashbacks just seem to be shoved into the story to spell out in crayon that John Carter is damaged and therefore, his heroism is more epic.
John Carter showed a lot of promise, but just didn’t live up to it. Putting everything together, John Carter just looked and felt like a movie that was trying to cram in too much content and then anticipated it would get approved for a sequel. It was sloppy and rushed and horribly lazy; Carter was introduced to various tribes and just seemed to understand their cultures. They even introduced a Martian language barrier for all of five minutes before someone said, almost verbatim, "If you want to be able to instantly translate this highly evolved alien language, just ask." Rosetta Stone eat your heart out.
Along with that, they introduced amazing technologies and John Carter just seemed to know how they worked (including a distinct lack of fascination with aerial transportation. Did we forget what year it was, Disney?). He became subject to religion and prophecy and acted as if he'd known about it his entire life (whatever that Ninth Ray bullshit is).
It's like Disney stole a page from Battlefield: Earth where they hooked the hero up to a machine and injected into his brain everything he needed to know about everything ever, but declined to actually put that scene into the movie out of respect* for the film it obviously looked up to for this. They must have assumed their entire target market had memorized the entire book series line by line, so filling in gaping plot-holes and having no actual substance and nothing even remotely memorable to walk away with was a tolerable sacrifice to make in order to see their favorite scenes played out on screen (in 3D!).
I'll briefly ruin this slugfest by saying that there is one John Carter item that I have been tempted to purchase: the soundtrack. THAT was fun and epic and enjoyable and fit beautifully to what the scenes COULD have if they didn't suck Martian ass…but ya know? Not owning that CD is a tolerable sacrifice to make in order to spit on the grave of this franchise.
A month after John Carter was released, Disney chairman Rich Ross resigned his post and I can only say good riddance. Any moron dumb enough to allow this movie to exist deserves to be cast into the deepest, darkest abyss of the project approval offices at Telemundo. To you I say, take your 3 dustbusters and crawl off into a corner to suck up the spiders that have escaped your cranium after successfully spinning cobwebs around every ounce of creativity you might have had.
*Never ever show any respect to Battlefield: Earth.

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