John Carter: Old-Fashioned Sci-Fi Leaps to Life
Like a steampunk Jules Verne novel with a $250 million budget.
March 17, 2012 - 12:28 am
These days, it’s hard to find a movie that doesn’t have some sort of political — read, Marxist — agenda. Seems like almost every film these days offers up some fable about climate change or an anti-war screed. John Carter avoid this. If it has a message of any kind, it’s “fight for what you believe in.” John Carter calls himself a man without a cause in the first half but he turns into a great warrior and uniter of tribes for the cause of preserving the freedom of Barsoom.
Director-writer Andrew Stanton recreates Burroughs’ vision of life on Barsoom in the 1860s, and co-writers Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon bring the characters to life. The special effects maintain the same old-fashioned feel as the rest of the film yet still thrill.
With as much excitement and fun as John Carter provides, several flaws mar the film: slow pacing in some spots, while earlier the narrative jumped so fast I lost track. The characters are stock types, but I guess that’s as much a flaw of Burroughs’ as the screenwriters’ fault. Michael Giacchino‘s score tried too hard; I expected better from the award-winning composer of Lost.
Late in John Carter, nearly defeated Thark leader Tars Tarkas (voiced by Willem Dafoe), speaks with Carter as theylanguish in chains, courtesy of a challenge to Tarkas’ throne. He admits to Carter that the man from Earth restored his faith in new ideas and dreams. He tells Carter:
When I saw you, I believed it was a sign — that something new can come into this world.
In a way, that’s what John Carter is — an escape from the modern science fiction/action blockbuster, a throwback to old-fashioned films with unambiguous heroes and villains.