Saturday, March 10, 2012

Fantasy Movies Are Supposed To Be Bad, Yet Again

Just watched John Carter Warlord of Mars at the movie theater. It was nice to have an excuse to go to the theater. And having read more than a couple of the books back when I was in third and fourth grade, I have been waiting for this video game blockbuster since Gladiator. Now that I've seen both a decent Batman movie (two no less) AND the Warlord of Mars on the silver screen, the world can end this upcoming December. If only I'd have lived long enough to see religious Star Wars fans commit mass suicide and George Lucas exposed for college age plagiarism.

I liked it, and would rate it a
King Kong on a "Godzilla to Smurf" scale. Of course, I may always downgrade the movie later, as I have done with the LotR series over the years. You just never know when your frontal lobe will find something cliche and unbearable, at least in my mildly schizophrenic case-- Tuesdays can get so boring speaking to yourself in your own head!

I was really worried about the casting, I am getting tired of Scorpion King remakes, but the cast worked well for me. Thomas Kitsch, with a self conscious stage name like that, I shouldn't be thinking he'll be going cliche while selling out too soon. The man did a good job as John Carter, by the end of the movie, I felt he was channeling the character from the books rather well. Willem Dafoe as Tars Tarkas worked nicely, though all they needed to do was give him some fake arms and tusk, instead of a CGI body to make him look like a Green Martian. Lynn Collins had just enough cleavage showing to get the JCM-Old Schooler like me paying attention-- and she made a good scientist-warrior as well. Sola, Samantha Morton, is downright intriguing.

The 21st century additions to the story worked out for me. Hey the wife and kids are a part of the movie watching for adults, get over it "High Fantasy" fans. The animals of Barsoom, including Woola, were a part of the tapestry of the books. The "Heroic Despite Himself Would-be Anarchist" story-arc for Carter helped out the romance, which was the point of the novel The Princess of Mars, as well ecological destruction by overly zealous industrialists. The twisting plot back on Earth was nicely done.
It gets rather Sherlock Holmesian towards the conclusion, yet still the Hollywood writers didn't diverge from book too far. Let me note, that when it comes to Burroughs, being wholly Hollywood is not a bad thing. The hometown of the author renamed itself to Tarzana, after his Tarzan series of stories.

My criticisms of this take are minimal. One is that the story went too many places. Part of the wonderment of Barsoom is wondering what will Edgar Rice Burroughs show you next novel, or short story. The gold martians and the white martians appear later in the series, as well as mentions of the Thern. And the uniquely Martian take on astrology, Barsoom means "8th Planet" after all, is missing. I think this would've given the movie a bit more authentic, as well as trippy, feel.

The only problem I have with this version is that I believe Disney bought out the rights to the John Carter material. This means too much marketing and not enough re-takes on the tales.
Here's to the Disney sequels then... don't let Peter Jackson anywhere near them.


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