After hearing a lot of positive things about this Disney film, I decided to try John Carter (2012) last night. The trailer made it seem like a pretty mediocre film, so it probably wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t looking for an excuse to evade work. – There’s nothing like blowing 120 minutes on a movie when you’re supposed to be productive. – But I’m glad I did, because John Carter turned out to be as much fun as the word of mouth suggested. Unlike George Lucas’ semi-recent attempts, this movie somehow succeeds at rekindling the fire of space opera.
Based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel ‘A Princess of Mars‘, John Carter chronicles the eponymous protagonist’s unexpected journey to the red planet. A red planet that, apparently, is not as devoid of life as NASA’s Viking program would have you believe. Taylor Kitsch plays the role of Carter. If I hadn’t seen Kitsch in The Bang Bang Club a few months earlier, I would probably never have heard of the man (I never made it far into Friday Night Lights). So it’s an interesting choice for a lead in a big budget picture such as this. Especially since you would expect Disney to pick a lead with, I don’t know, a more ready smile maybe. Instead, Kitsch seems almost melancholic at times. Not that I don’t appreciate that. On the contrary, it allows the film’s more poignant moments to work rather well. Which is remarkable, because I honestly can’t remember the last time I gave a damn about anything in CG heavy adventure films with similar intended target audiences (i.e. everyone). Furthermore, it is expertly paced. John Carter tells a grand story, without feeling rushed, while still finding time for scenes like the one where Carter first arrives on Mars and figures out he can jump.
No, I’m not ashamed to admit that I like this film. All the more, since recent years have proven that it has become nigh impossible to pull off the ‘great adventure film': Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the Star Wars prequels, Avatar, Super 8 and Conan the Barbarian (last summer) all tried to recapture the glory days, but they lack heart. John Carter, on the other hand, almost feels like it was made in the eighties and I can’t give it any higher praise.