John Carter feels old school–a throw back to a time when character development and atmosphere were placed in higher regard than special effects and mindless action. And although Andrew Stanton has created a beautiful Martian landscape, orchestrated thrilling action sequences and realized memorable CG rendered alien characters–this story can be stripped down to the telling of a journey, taken by a disillusioned confederate era captain, who ends up finding his destiny. Bravo!
I have never read the novels written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, but I do know about them and as a Sci Fi geek I am aware of their significance to our genre. Yet, I was able to come in with a clean slate and be introduced to this new world. And what a world it is! Stanton is able to maintain a perfect balance throughout the narrative and it’s a testament to his storytelling abilities. He mixes action with character growth and sprinkles in humor and poignancy, for good measure. The story takes its time and allows you get lost in all its details.
(Side note–I am so excited that both Pixar directors–Stanton and Brad Bird–have not disappointed in the live action arena–can’t wait to see what they do next!)
The cast is perfect. Taylor Kitsch as John Carter is scrappy and tough, but with enough sadness and pain to make him a believable hero. Lynn Collins as Princess Dejah is the right mix of intelligent, badass and vulnerable. Mark Strong (again) plays a strong villain and Dominic West has being a jerk down to a science. The remaining characters are motion captured and are brought to life, most memorably, by Willem Dafoe (Tars Tarkas–Leader of the Tharks) and Samantha Morton (Sola). I also loved all the creatures–especially the “doggy” Woola!
I found that it was easy to lose myself in this adventure. It had a little bit of everything and a whole lot of wonderful. (Now, I am looking forward to the proposed trilogy!) Go check it out–the trailer doesn’t do it justice–trust me, this is a journey worth taking!