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Saturday, March 10, 2012

8 STARS! JOHN CARTER Movie Review: Don't Listen To The Naysayers! **MINOR SPOILERS**

**MINOR SPOILERS**

JOHN CARTER will sweep you off Earth and into a whirlwind of an epic classic.

Do you love great stories? And I mean stories that have influenced our culture in countless ways? Then you'll love JOHN CARTER.

First of all, let's address the naysayers that are out there. The usual suspects I'll admit. I am pointing the finger (yet again) squarely are Roger Ebert. It seems Mr. Ebert has a problem with this movie. I have already defending 3D from his tirades time and time again and now I actually have to defend the story! Of a classic no less. Sure he didn't hate the movie but he's is giving lame reasons to give it his 2.5 stars. Quite lame in fact. I would almost expect him to defend classic stories, even if they are adapted - but clearly one should expect the unexpected with him.

Here is part of what he has said about JOHN CARTER:
When superior technology is at hand, it seems absurd for heroes to limit themselves to swords. When airships the size of a city block can float above a battle, why handicap yourself with cavalry charges involving lumbering alien rhinos? When it is possible to teleport yourself from Earth to Mars, why are you considered extraordinary because you can jump really high?

Such questions are never asked in the world of “John Carter,” and as a result, the movie is more Western than science fiction. Even if we completely suspend our disbelief and accept the entire story at face value, isn’t it underwhelming to spend so much time looking at hand-to-hand combat when there are so many neat toys and gadgets to play with?

It's nice that Ebert can transpose the exact technology development of humans on Earth to that of other creatures on other planets. Any other development path would be outrageous, right?

It begs the question of whether or not he has read any of Burrough's work at any time because his work isn't what traditionalists call Science Fiction, but more fantasy. Regardless, it isn't required to read novels before seeing adaptations, but it certainly would help in this case - Ebert effectively doesn't know how to categorize the movie! It is FANTASY Mr. Ebert. That's why they fight as they do. Not all the creatures have the same level of technology either by intellect or by choice: Some rely on flight, others REFUSE to fly (as stated directly in the movie) and insist on "cavalry".

Interestingly enough he didn't lambast the 3D in this movie! I am kind of taken aback, but in the end I realize he probably just went to see it in 2D and missed the further immersion into the movie. Perhaps that's a big reason why he doesn't find himself suspending disbelief as much - 3D is great for bringing you into the film. I feel sorry for him.

Anyway, back to my review...

The 3D is a conversion, but it is well done. Along the same lines as CAPTAIN AMERICA or THOR. In other words, pretty darn good and approaching what lay people would deem to be close to what 3D cameras could shoot. To me though, it was easily distinguishable as a conversion - but the fact that it was done correctly, this knowledge didn't bother me at all. We had great, expansive scenes where the 3D sucks you into the environment and yet we had nice close ups of characters (including the 99% photo real bipedal creatures) that relaxed the 3D so we had time to rest our eyes without even knowing we are doing so. Just about PERFECTLY executed. Some issues to improve upon, but not much for general audiences, trust me.

I had some issues with the Giant White Apes and Carter's faithful "dog". While they are appealing to younger audiences, they didn't resonate with me. I was hoping for a much darker threat for Carter visually. Still, with all it's Disney'ish' appeal to the younger set I was not taken aback by it. I adapted rather quickly to the faithful companion idea and it did add to the story. This is NOT a case of Jar Jar Binks everyone. There is nothing irritating about his movie. The creatures could have been a bit more edgier though.

The ONLY thing that bothered me slightly more was hand to hand combat. John Carter proved that he could kill with one blow, yet little to no respect was given to him by the native creatures in manhandling him. Worse still, Carter did not continue to exert is will when is health is on the line, when clearly he could have. Now I give some leeway here to his kind-hearted nature and he did show remorse after killing so easily, but still - one must protect one's self.

On to the good things...
I love the sweeping story AND the story outside the story - how it all unfolds and how it concludes impressively. Epic INDEED. Sequels should be in the mix here as the ending alludes to it very well and if the international box office responds, as it has in Russia.

Taylor Kitsch can carry a movie. I find it's his voice of all things that resonates. He certainly does have presence, but when he speaks he commands attention. In narrative movies, Kitsch can carry the day. He has plenty on his plate so I expect to see him continue to improve on what is already remarkable skills. His character truly blossomed when the audience was included in on the fact that something terrible happened back on Earth for him personally.

The princess played by Lynn Collins was EXTREMELY well cast. She carries the movie in many scenes. She is in fact, a scene stealer. Her body movements are extremely effective on screen which is rare these days I find. Reminds me of the golden years of film when actresses could captivate with subtle movements. You can see the Shakespeare training revealing itself with almost every step she took. She needed this bravado to carry off the royal nature of her character and she accomplished it with ease.

I was suitably impressed with the visual effects and the four handed creatures. Really, they were very well thought out. One shot in particular where he crosses one set of arms and places the other two on his hips was amazing! I live for shots like that in movies!!

The conclusion was satisfying and delivered on the movie's promises. I was thoroughly entertained and that is what it is all about! Don't listen to those that choose to denounce well, just about anything in the devil's advocate's name - take the time to go see this, on the biggest screen you can and ENJOY.

I am giving JOHN CARTER 8 Stars out of 10. I saw it in Empire Theatre's IMAX 3D. Thanks Empire!

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Jim Dorey
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