Cinema With Sharlette: 'John Carter'

by 12:16 PM PST, March 09, 2012
Photo: Walt Disney Pictures

For the sci-fi fan that has been anticipating the character of John Carter coming to the silver screen, the wait is finally over. It took about 100 years, but the story based on the Edward Rice Burroughs' novel A Princess of Mars, is brought to life.

In John Carter, the American Civil War Veteran, plagued by the death of his family finds a new hope on a new planet. He is mysteriously transported to Barsoom (Mars), after discovering a medallion and unexplained markings in a hidden cave.

The story of John Carter will definitely strike a familiar chord. This character has inspired some of cinema's groundbreaking science fiction stories; including the works of George Lucas (Star Wars) and James Cameron (Avatar). Oscar winning director Andrew Stanton, best known for directing animated features including Wall-E and Finding Nemo, makes his debut with his first live action film.

The visual elements of John Carter are new and refreshing. The intricate details of 19th century America and the innovative creation of a 19th century Mars, proves Stanton to be a great choice for this project. Every scene is a montage of outstanding composition.

However, with so much detail to beauty, the medallion used to transport John, could have easily been a toy from a kid’s meal. At times illuminating to offer some amusement, otherwise the design of the object did not live up to its ability. The dullness of the medallion keeps our eyes on the real star of the film, the charismatic Taylor Kitsch.

T.V. fans will recognize Kitsch from his role as Tim Riggins on Friday Night Lights. Kitsch is the perfect John Carter and has no problem carrying the weight of this adventure. This film is sure to launch Kitsch into a new arena of opportunity a highly successful career.

Rounding out the cast, Willem Dafoe and Thomas Haden Church (Spiderman 3), lend their voices as the 12-foot Martian natives known as the Tharks. Mark Strong gives an alluring and almost seductive performance as Matai Shang, the brainwashing villain. Actress Lynn Collins plays opposite of Kitsch as Dejah Thoris. The princess of Mars is no ordinary damsel in distress. Collins characterizes the regal Dejah Thoris with strength and intelligence. Kitsch and Collins share the exchange of saving each other lives on numerous occasions.

In the battle scenes, the actors show a vivid display of athleticism and skill. Training and attention to technique is evident in their fighting style. The consistency throughout the action sequences exhibit very distinct qualities of medieval swordsmanship. The action moves the film at a desirable pace yet, has a tendency to slow down for the love story of John and the Princess. As fighters, the physical strength of Kitsch and Collins makes them the perfect match. The friction from their swords is the only sign of sparks to their predictable romance. Collins as the love interest for Kitsch is a definite mismatch and their chemistry feels forced. The romance of the space hero fighting in a foreign civil war begs the question of cause.

Rather the fight is for the heart of a woman, the control of the planet or even the means of escapism is left for the audience to decide. Study up on your Star Wars trivia. You will not be able to avoid the comparisons.