Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Moon, Willem Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy, Bryan Cranston, Polly Walker, Daryl Sabara, and more.
Directed by: Andrew Stanton Screenplay by: Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews, and Michael Chabon Based on the Princess of Mars by: Edgar Rice Burroughs. Original Music by: Michael Giacchino
Premise: While on a search for an elusive cave of gold, John Carter is accidentally transported to Barsoom (Mars). Once there, he finds that he has certain abilities here he didn’t have on Earth. Which he comes to depend on as he struggles to survive the predatory lifestyle of the Martians and find a way home. (Rated PG-13)
Review: I’ve been waiting for this film for a LONG time. Haven’t read the novels in 30+ years, so doing a full comparison is beyond my means. But all the mind lodged peoples and feelings of the novels are definitely there. Even I was able to catch several subtle in-jokes as they went past!
1) Acting/Voice Acting – Thumbs Up – Taylor Kitsch did a great job as John Carter. Some great subtle expressions. Loved Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris. Samantha Moon and Willem Dafoe gave great life to Sola and Tars Tarkas and delivered some zinger lines. It did prove a little distracting when I saw Ciaran Hinds side by side with James Purefoy again – got flashbacks to Ceasar and Mark Anthony of ROME for a minute – but they were good as always. James Purefoy even showing a bit of comedy towards the end.
I must admit, however, that the character who stole the show is not an actor or actress – it was Woola, the Martian reptilian dog! Her expressions and general playfulness spoke volumes without the aid of words and she was great for sprinklings of comedic relief as well. Go, Woola!
2) Animation/Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up – It’s these types of films, where the majority is made of CGI, that truly flower in IMAX and IMAX 3D. The green martians were detailed and expressive. The work done with Woola and the other animals of this strange world were wonderful. And the hatching of the babies, and when they are prepared for receiving training and then sleeping, kept me utterly fascinated.
Transitions and integrations of reality and CGI were flawless. When the humans interacted with other species, you’d swear they were all really there.
Fabulous work on the gate building on the river Isis as well. It was a lot of fun watching it come alive.
The vehicles were wonderful! The mechanism and controls were incredibly imaginative, making them Barsoonian while still allowing for the audience to know them for what they were. (Ignore the Star Wars episode 6 flashbacks) I especially enjoyed the bridge of the flying ships. Great attention to detail.
3) Plot – Thumbs Up – The main characters each have simple goals, but it is the fact they aren’t the same that creates a lot of the conflict, conflict that deepens the story. The added baggage of why John has changed from the hero of the Civil War is nicely layered in as well. The scenes where they’re trying to “force” him to join the military at the fort on Earth to fight against the Indians were hilarious but also poignant in showing the changes in the man without having to “tell” why.
Some good zigs and zags as well as surprises in the plot. Even better, we get two very strong females in Sola and Dejah Thoris. And they had strength in more than just fighting prowess as well. Nicely done.
4) Locations/Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up – Whether real or imagined, the locations in the film were top notch. From the streets in New York, to the Utah plains, to the vast wasteland of the Martian plains, they were breathtaking. John’s first moments on Barsoom showed a great contrast between where he’d been and where he was now.
The Martian cities were also quite spectacular — the griminess of the moving city, the splendor of Helium, the spectacular ruins where the green Martians made their home — a feast for the senses.
5) Costuming/Makeup – Thumbs Up – The clothing was varied and unique. Definitely different from what would be worn on Earth and uniquely Martian, even in the items, like armor, which for humans tends to follow the same veins.
The red coloring to the human Martians tended to vary on the same person at times, but was easily overlooked. The tattoos, however, were excellent! On the humans and the green Martians – they added that little extra bit of ‘alien’ to both races to really sell it. Kudos!
Conclusion: Though probably not exact to the books which gave it birth, still, all around, the film was a great piece of homage to Edgar Rice Burroughs works and the fans who’ve always hoped to see Barsoom come alive. And for those who have never read his works, this is a great introduction. A good balance of story, action, adventure, mystery and more.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Paying Full Price To See It AGAIN!)