Aliens in the Dust – John Carter Review

In my previous post A Week ’til John Carter I discussed both the merits and flaws of the books and expressed an extreme desire to see Disney do right by the classic scifi franchise. This week, I bought jumbo popcorn, donned ridiculous spectacles and settled in for the 3D cinema experience of Disney’s John Carter. I hadn’t been that excited for a movie since the first Lord of the Rings film. Having gone serious fangirl and watched ever trailer, snippet, clip, and interview I could find, I had high expectations going in to the theatre. And wow, was I in for a surprise…

What I wanted from the film:

1. Plot – preferably more coherent than what the books provided and with clearer character motivation

2. An awesome John Carter – the self-deprecating, none-too-smart, anti-hero type who rises to the occasion and fights with honour

3. Awesome other characters particularly Dejah Thoris – a kickass heroine not a Disney princess

4. Spectacle – it’s 3D, it cost a fortune to make so I wanted to be visually impressed


What I got from the film:

1. Plot. Hallelujah! Not just a string of action sequences with Carter swinging his sword but an actual action-reaction sequence perfectly mapped out. Loved it. The story only very loosely followed events int he book but I didn’t care because the movie story was better!

2. Awesome John Carter – here’s my only beef. They gave Carter this great back story, made him all dark and tortured, gave the part to a character who does dark and tortured extremely well (Tim Riggins, Kevin Carter thank you kindly Mr Kitsch) and then didn’t give the guy time to really delve into that twisted, guilt-ridden side of the hero. I would’ve gladly sat through another 30mins if they’d given Taylor Kitsch more time to explore the darker aspects of John Carter. But any guy who can pull off a loincloth and knee highs like Kitsch did deserves a medal any way.

3. Awesome Dejay Thoris – she’s smart, fiery, not afraid to get hands dirty or stand up for what she believes in. Anything but a typical Disney princess, thank the gods. Finally, here’s a princess little girls can have as a positive role model. Ok, she’s still a princess and falls in insta-love with the ruggedly handsome hero but we’ll forgive her that. Tars Tarkas is great too and so much more than just a 4 armed green guy with big teeth. I wish they’d made more of the relationship between him and Sola, but maybe I’m asking too much. Despite the awesome cast, one ten-legged toad-dog stole the show – Woola. I can’t wait for a spin-off movie starring him 🙂

4. Spectacle in freaking spades! Wow! I’d actually like to see the film again in 2D since the 3D got distracting. It was almost too much but truly awesome and indicative of what we can accomplish with technology. Outstanding, I hope they win an Oscar for the sets and CGI.

What I got that I wasn’t expecting:

Humour! I didn’t laugh in the books, not once. I didn’t expect to laugh in the film. I spent over two hours in hysterics. Perhaps this is my warped sense of humour, but the script was marvelous in that it paid tribute to and took the piss out of the books. Kitsch was great in his subtly comedic role (facial expressions, body language – the guy should do stand up. If you don’t believe me, catch some of his interviews. Master of straight faced quips) and of course the usual dash of Disney innuendo was there too, making for a rip-roaring, swashbuckling, over the top, ridiculous, hilarious adventure film.

The soundtrack was brilliant too. Michael Giacchino (Up, Lost series, Call of Duty game) composed the score and it really suits the sweeping, arid vistas as well as the dramatic action. Have a listen for yourself:

Track title: A Thern for the Worse (get it? see that sly humour I was talking about…)

I don’t know why John Carter’s getting so many negative reviews and taking so much abuse in the media. Maybe it’s sour grapes, maybe it was less than strategic marketing, or maybe it’s because John Carter doesn’t fit the cookie cutter Disney/cinema mould. It doesn’t offer a pop-corn munching audience the usual cheap thrills and spills, and doesn’t tie-up with a neat little happy ending. John Carter dared to do something different and did it brilliantly.

So what did you think of the movie? Have you read the books?


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