Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

18 March 2012

John Carter... of Mars

I don't need to tell you John Carter, Disney's 275-million-dollar epic is bad. I am sure you know it's bad, and I'm sure you also know that everyone else knows it's bad (there were, I think, a few people in the multiplex in Tallahassee that had no idea, but I'll leave that for now).

The film is directed by Andrew Stanton, who is best known for the animated films Finding Nemo, A Bug's Life, and WALL·E. Carter is his live-action debut and he kinda has no idea what he's doing.

At one point I literally turned to my companions and said "I have no idea what's going on," (obviously a bad thing for a film aimed at a demographic much younger than me) and more than once my companions and I asked aloud: "but why doesn't she just...?" or "why wouldn't he...?" In one of the film's sequences, the villain (Dominic West from The Wire), offers up his life to the film's heroine (a gorgeous Lynn Collins). "Kill me," he says. "You have the power." But she doesn't. She swings the sword at his neck and stops before cutting his head off. She hates him and knows that if she doesn't kill him she will have to marry him. She also knows that marrying him means the downfall of her planet. He gives her the power to kill him and she doesn't take it, even though later she will interrupt her own wedding swords a-blazing (do swords blaze?) to stop the marriage. Nonsense.

There's also some weird thing in the movie about the planets aligning and light shining in a powerful beam and a ninth gate, but I had no idea what any of that was about except that one person wasn't supposed to know about it and everyone else needed to keep her from knowing about it. I honestly kept trying to figure this out in the movie, but I don't think it actually makes sense in any realm of logic.

I'm just gonna stop right there. I didn't totally dislike this movie, so I'll just stop criticizing it. Some good things:

The movie is quite funny in its early sequences. All of the stuff with John Carter back in Arizona in 1868 is great fun, expertly timed, beautifully edited.

I love me some Willem Dafoe. He appears as a green Martian king (they call them jeddaks on Mars). And his daughter is voiced by the lovely Samantha Morton. The entire movie involved a shirtless Taylor Kitsch running around in the desert, as well.

This is what that looked like:
...and let me tell you, that was fine with me.

There is also this very cool little reptile/dog beast, who runs around really quickly and follows Taylor Kitsch everywhere. He is good for lots of laughs in the film and is, frankly, adorable. I want one for my house.

I also complain a lot on this blog about how movies with lots of technology and giant robots just end up punching each other during fight sequences (cf. Iron Man, Transformers, Real Steel, etc.) but one thing John Carter has going for it is a cool technology that runs on human or martian energy somehow. The film doesn't bother explaining how it works, but we get to see a giant structure built out of these machines, and plenty of weapons. There is a superb sequence where John Carter is held prisoner via a kind of remote that seems to control his blood stream and his posture. It looks really cool.

And the jumping. The jumping is cool. Carter's human gravity on Earth is different than it is on Mars, so he can jump really high and far, and he has a kind of super-strength. I mean, that's fun.

But ohmygoddon'tseeit. You'll just hate yourself.