“John Carter” — A Film Review by Gary Chew
I remember the first movie I ever saw because it gave me a nightmare. One of the Tarzan movies it was. Johnny Weismueller in “Tarzan and the Leopard Women” or something like that.
Just about everyone knows that with Tarzan, Edgar Rice Burroughs created one of the most famous franchises ever known. But, I’d place a bet that fewer know that shortly before Burroughs conjured up Tarzan, he had already crafted another larger-than-life hero by the name of John Carter. That was in1912.
Oh, I forgot to say something about my nightmare induced by “Tarzan and the Leopard Woman”: unruly elephants were part of that picture. My bad dream, later, put me smack dab in front of a stampede of the large, leathery creatures. It was a pretty scary night. And it is elephants that are just about the only thing that the new Disney film, “John Carter” doesn’t have.
Oh, but let me tell you more.
It might be easier to say what’s not in this spectacular movie that comes a century after its character arrived. There’s a conglomeration of special effects and computer generated images of such astounding magnitude, I can’t begin to list them all. The fancy visuals are almost outnumbered (I’m kidding, here) by the mix of genres the terrific imaginations of Mr. Burroughs and the Disney people have laid onto the “John Carter” narrative.
John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is a Civil War vet (Confederacy) who really gets around for a dude out of the 19th century. I don’t mean just around the country or world, but mostly back and forth between Mars and Earth. However, most of the movie takes place on Mars.
We’ve got sci-fi up and running already. And Captain Carter, coming out of the Civil War and losing his family in that tragedy, puts another face on the film, as well. Of course, out there on Mars, it’s much more advanced than Civil War days back here in the States.
Furthermore, all is cast as if everything on Mars—or Barsoom, as it’s called on the red planet—is the Roman Empire. There are Caesar-like characters and spacious halls and coliseums for the nobility to plot against the agitated, four-armed riff raff in the streets. Some guys even wear garments that resemble togas, and have “Caligula” hairstyles. One of those guys is portrayed by Ciarán Hinds.
But the Barsoomians, I guess I should call them, do have ancient-looking, open-air flying machines that use light rays as fuel. So they get around airborne.
Of course, there’s a lovely princess. Her name is Dejah (Lynn Collins). She is quite smart and has a nagging progressive attitude about the future of Barsoom, much to the expected chagrin some Barsoomians who probably would swear there’s no such thing as Climate Change down here on Earth.
Just to be clear, Princess Dejah’s last name is not Voo.
Or course, there’s a very bad, sort of ugly Caesar-like guy also with a “Caligulacut.” He’s called Sab Than (Dominic West). Sab wants Dejah to marry him so, together, they can button-up all the action that carries forward on Barsoom. She, of course, doesn’t want to, but, and of course, her father, (Tardos Mors) the guy Ciarán Hinds plays, is forcing her into wedlock.
And since John Carter can jump really high, too (due to the scientific fact that the gravity difference between Earth and Mars is great), you’re probably wondering whatever in the world the widower Civil War vet from Earth does in regard to all these bad things going down on Barsoom…even though John has sworn to never again take up arms?
You’ll never guess.
About now, there maybe a reader or two who might consider the possibility that the writer of this piece is being too cynical. Well, they might be accurate for, after all it is a movie made for young people. (I like young people, btw.)
Its clear “John Carter” is for less mature persons. The movie people have been very careful to make sure all the Roman-looking costumes for females fit appropriately so as to not reveal too much of the lady actors in the motion picture.
The dialogue is only sprinkled with somewhat harsh words. Nothing excessive.
No sex of course. Except there is an unromantic bedroom scene between a man and woman who’ve just gotten married on Barsoom. The man in the scene can’t sleep, and is worried about stuff going on in the society. He takes most of his overnight, alone, on the balcony. (I don’t think anything happened.)
Yes, this is a movie for younger people.
Then why did they make “John Carter” so freaking violent…almost constantly violent? It is, of course, mostly of the bloodless kind that is never seen in actual combat on a street or battlefield…or movies that have an ulterior reason to depict gore.
I’m thinking back to, say, “Schindler’s List,” “Platoon” and “The Thin Red Line” on that.
That the gore isn’t shown in a violent film is something to ponder, I believe. And let me add (should anyone wonder) that, unlike my feelings for young people, I dislike blood and gore.
There’s even a scene in “John Carter” tantamount to lions eating Christians, but the monsters doing the munching come of cinematic imaginings, and the victims from out of the strange-looking, four-armed riff raff crowd of which so many are lucky enough to see the barbaric spectacle up close—on the ground floor of the arena.
Best seat in the house.