Cinematic Releases: John Carter

A guest post by Jesse Barnes:

Since 1931, A Princess of Mars (the novel John Carter is based on) was supposed to have been turned into a live action film...yes, 1931. And since then, the production and rights juggled around until Andrew Stanton, director of my absolute favorite Pixar film, Wall-e, and Finding Nemo took the helm. The trailers looked like a Star Wars for the new generation and with Stanton directing, I wanted in. And what I got was a barely above average adventure flick with a bloated budget, great comic relief, exceptional special effects, horrid script, acting that ranged from stale to melodramatic, and action segments with just as much balls as it had thrills -- which is none at all.

Well, what was good? The special effects are undoubtedly on its way to Oscar night. The realism and spectacle is awesome. Every creature, every airship, and every mechanized architectural design looked strikingly real and had total melting pot synergy. The bizarre otherworldly creatures felt like a real thriving race of beings that interacted with the actors and their environments with convincing tangibility. One of these creatures in particular was a real crowd pleaser, providing the majority of the warm hearted comic relief Andrew Stanton is known for, but sadly was the only imprint of his I felt during the entirety of the film.

The sense of wonder typical of Pixar storytelling, and specifically Stanton, was unfortunately absent and I came to the sad realization that Stanton was not the right choice for this. It's clear his one-dimensional experience in the animation world has lent him little proficiency to direct real actors in a live setting. They should have started the guy out a little smaller.

I'm not sure who to fault for the acting, Stanton for his lack of experience, a tremendously uninspiring script, or just plain bad actors. The sexual tension between the two leads that chews up an unreasonable amount of screen time had my eyes rolling scene after useless scene. I have nothing against a good love story to go with my epic action films, but wow, was this ever embarrassing. It might not have been so bad if the actors were directed better and, well, didn't suck as actors. The entire remainder of the cast outclassed the leads in every way and, in fact, so did the ones that weren't even human or remotely real.

Yeah, but who cares? I'm a huge meat headed douchebag and just want to see things blow up and half naked dudes punching each other! With the exception of one, count it, ONE single action scene being viscerally rewarding on not only a physical level, but an emotional one at that, every action scene besides that was dull and vastly short on energy or bang. Unless you count a guy jumping really high ad nauseam exciting, then you're probably the awfully rare type of person that gets an adrenaline rush from "following the bouncing ball" on animated musicals from the 1950's.

What John Carter has going for it is great laughs and excellent visual effects. It's certainly worth seeing. Rent it. I don't personally think it necessitates a theater experience regardless of its advertised epic scale. It's like Avatar and Star Wars gave birth to a boy without testicles and didn't pass on the tree hugging or memorable characters.