Saturday, June 23, 2012

Review of John Carter

I finally got around to watching John Carter last week.  It's time in the theater was awfully brief, and I didn't get around to seeing it before it was gone.

A lot of people, particularly fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs's Mars series, really liked the movie.  Others thought it should have been truer to the books.  Most folks who appreciated ERB seemed to like the movie, however.  The general viewing audience, however, appears to have been less enthusiastic, and the movie failed at the box office so fast that I didn't get a chance to see it.

So what did I think?  I've read the first couple John Carter novels (actually titled A Princess of Mars and The Gods of Mars), and overall I liked them.  I was not, however, particularly impressed with them.  The first novel was rather episodic, and only came together at the end.  The second also had an episodic feel, though there was more of a driving narrative.  Neither really grabbed hold of me as I was reading them.

Perhaps as a consequence, I didn't find the movie as entertaining as the other reviewers had. The beginning, which had very little resemblance to the book, felt particularly weak.  The movie broke from the book in other ways, but I think one advantage of doing so was that it was able to give the narrative more cohesion and drive. But it was still not enough cohesion and drive.  The journey to the River Iss, in particular, and the discovery of the chamber with the map of the solar system, seemed particularly random, and a bit too convenient.  

The action was fun, but felt even less realistic than other action movies.  Of course, this is partly the fault of ERB, who postulated that an Earthman would be super-humanMartian on Mars, which gave the action scenes a superhero feel.  Since, however, the genre was not superhero, it didn't work as well.  Besides, the way John Carter fought seemed to involve more swinging his sword in great slashing arcs and using his superior strength than any real swordsmanship.  In the books, at least, John Carter was a capable swordsman.

There were quite a few places in the movie where I lost track of what was going on, and why they were doing what they were doing.  I'd like to think that I was paying attention, and am at least as capable as following a movie as the average movie goer, so I suspect that some fault for that lies with the filmmaker.

Overall, I don't regret watching it.  I may even watch it again, just to try to figure out the plot in the sections I didn't follow last time.  But while I've seen worse (at least it's better than "Cowboys and Aliens," as Kristin remarked to me afterward), I'd hoped for better.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I moderate comments on posts more than a week old. Your comment will appear immediately on new posts, or as soon as I get a chance to review it for older posts.