I’d like to offer a few words about the movie JOHN CARTER – basically, that it’s terrific. The reviewers (whether print or blogosphere) who have savaged this film – particularly those who have gleefully pronounced it a fiasco of HEAVEN’S GATE proportions – are…what is the word I’m looking for? Idiots.
Nate and his girl friend Abby – both in their twenties, and Barb and I, neither in our twenties, none of us idiots – loved this film. For anyone who grew up on the Mars novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Pixar director Andrew Stanton has conjured almost literally a dream come true – the characters that previously lived only in the shared imagination of author and reader are alive on screen. We encounter strange, fully delineated creatures and cultures, sometimes humorous, other times horrific, in this heartfelt piece of filmmaking. Epic and intimate, JOHN CARTER is faithful to its influential source material, and despite what you’ve heard, not at all hard to follow…again, unless you’re an idiot.
The Western section alone, with Bryan Cranston as a Custer-style general, is as entertaining an action film as I’ve seen in ages – the introduction of Carter himself, through a series of quickly cut scenes of comically escalating violence, is masterful storytelling. It’s true that between action scenes the characters occasionally talk – an outrageous notion, I realize. Some have said that Carter’s heroic powers (driven by the variant gravity of Mars) are nothing special – after all, they are basically Superman’s…created by Burroughs decades before science-fiction fans Siegel and Shuster, bless ‘em, came up with the guy in the red cape.
Overall, JOHN CARTER possesses a haunting quality that combines the desert spectacle of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA with the fantasy romance of TIME AFTER TIME, even as it reminds us that its classic source inspired such pop culture touchstones as FLASH GORDON, STAR WARS and DUNE.
Some have found the unfortunately named Taylor Kitsch a stiff as John Carter. I found him charismatic and compelling, and would let the guy play Nate Heller any day of the week. Lynn Collins, as Princess Dejah Thoris, is a striking, full-bodied woman who is well up to her swashbuckling task; and she could play Ms. Tree any day of the week. Also, I am fine with any movie that has the sense to cast both Julius Caesar (Ciaran Hinds) and Mark Anthony (James Purefoy) from HBO’s Rome in the same epic picture.
I would imagine that most fans of Burroughs (and his Barsoom and Tarzan) will be in this film’s pocket the moment they realize that Burroughs himself is a major character. As an author, I am thrilled to see a one-hundred year-old novel becoming the source for a big budget 21st Century film. Do not miss this one. Unless, of course, you’re an idiot.
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The first review of LADY GO, DIE! has appeared, and it’s a fine one, from that terrific crime writer, Tom Piccirilli.
And Ennis Willie’s second Sand two-fer, SAND’S WAR, for which I wrote an introduction, got a swell write-up from the always interesting Bookgasm.
See you next week, probably with an inside look at the writing of the currently in progress ANTIQUES CHOP.