Monday, March 19, 2012

Of Mars

3D. IMAX 3D. Opening day. Back row. Pixar's first live action film. The annoying family in front of me.  Yes, Helium is the name of the gas in a balloon...and also the name of a city on Mars in this movie. Shut up! Put your cell phones down! This is John Carter...this is my review.

Okay, so let me start out by saying that I did not read the John Carter books.  I did not even know that there were John Carter books when the trailer came out.  I had heard of Edgar Rice Burroughs, who wrote John Carter...but I knew him more as the Tarzan writer.  The point? I know nothing about the character prior to the movie...other than he was a Civil War guy...and he was on Mars.  That's it.  So, whilst J-Man could speak to you from a position of knowledge about the literary history of the writer, I speak to you from a position of total and complete ignorance.  I am a newbie.  So, if you did not read the book prior to the movie coming out, I guess my position is the most familiar to you.

So, what did I think!  It was damned good!  I know that the critics are kinda whishy-washy on this one.  Something about inconsistent characterizations and confusing plot elements or some hogwash like that.   Take in mind, when you read these reviews from these yahoos, they are probably sitting there watching Pulp Fiction for the umpteenth time.  They're already sniffing that the movie coming out called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter looks "implausible."  Abraham Lincoln never fought vampires!, they cry.  That's right, critics are as dumb as you think and twice as ugly.  No...Lincoln didn't fight vampires!  Wilkes Booth wasn't a vampire?  That's not what my textbooks said!

Anyhow, I'm going off topic.  I feel a rant coming on.  I must let it slide for another day (be prepared for a future post of mine titled: "Why critics are scum-sucking vermin who are not worth a fart in a wind from a geriatric wino...and the women who love them") and focus on the matter at hand.  John Carter.  The movie is a pure and unadulterated spectacle.  It is visual eye-candy.  You spend the majority of the movie on Mars and whatever you think of Mars geography, blearly red-hued backgrounds, this movie isn't it.  Mars is beautiful and spectacular.  There are aliens.  There is a bad guy.  There is a love interest in scanty clothing.  There is Mark Strong.  Mark Strong is in every movie these is Cirian Hinds and James Purefoy, who played Solomon Kane in the movie that will never be released called "Solomon Kane".  There are epic battles.  There are cool weapons.  There is a plot that involves the fate of Mars.  What more do you want?

But is the movie perfect?  Not for me.  Being  a newbie and you can argue this point with me quite successfully, there are all sorts of strange names and places and words that it's going to take you a few minutes to get wind of.  Is that the fault of the story or my own ignorance?  You be the judge.  I'm not going to say that it's the movie's fault, but when you have a genre like this (and I also take aim at the Lord of the Rings trilogy for this), you can't toss a whole bunch of strange-sounding places, names and words at the audience without them saying "Whoa, whoa, wait a minute, maybe I should have read the books before I showed up, sure...but if I didn't, then it's going to take more some time to catch on?"  That's how I felt at points, which is not to say I was confused or didn't understand what was going on, but I like to appreciate the finer details in movie plots sometimes and all I'm saying is you through in your own made-up language and you don't throw me a dictionary, it can get a little lost in translation. 

Also, the bald bad guys, who are legends on Mars.  Think of the Iago's of the story, the guys who truly run the show through manipulation and the like.  In the movie, they're explained to be immortal?  However, didn't one immortal get shot and killed on Earth at the end?  Or did he possess a guy?  Did I miss something?  Whose hand is that on my knee?  Truly, I may have missed something, it wouldn't be the first time (Cowboys and Aliens), so it's not a big point, but if I didn't miss something, then that's a bit of a contradiction?  Maybe I missed the point with the frigging family whispering to each other every ten minutes in front of me, or perhaps I was distracted by the glare of the cellphones, held up in unison every so often.  See, a movie like this, a movie where you have to pay attention, is somewhat spoiled when the entire audience with the exception of myself and the people who came in the door with me refuse to pay attention.  After all, it's just a stupid fantasy movie, we don't really have to pay attention all the time, right?

See, that's the real problem.  People don't take stuff like this seriously.  They think they're just going to watch some big stupid epic fantasy movie that they'll forget seeing within 3 hours of going home.  At a price of $18 per pop, not counting concession prices, that's a tad expensive way of frittering away a couple of unmemorable hours.  You could spend your time on the toilet for free and have the same experience, if that's what you're going for.  

So, go and see John Carter on the big screen, so you can enjoy the great visuals, the fantastic cinematography and the spectacle of it all.  Just ask the family of four in front of you to shut their trap, lest you miss one alien word.  It really could make all the difference in the world -- this one, or the big red one in the sky.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

- Stephenstein

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