John Carter: directed by Andrew Stanton, written by Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon
Existing as further proof that sometimes it’s great not living in the US in terms of wide releases, and that there’s more than a little positive to be found in avoiding any sort of blather about soon to be released films which pervades the interwebs around this time is John Carter. An apparent multimillion dollar blockbuster I know that John Carter has been in the conversation for some weeks now, and me and my insular self has managed (with my tunnel vision) to ward off any significant knowledge of it. The thing is, though, I didn’t avoid all talk of John Carter because I was worried about spoilers, or falling for the hype and being disappointed. I was never legitimately interested in John Carter, not really. But, it’s March and I’ve been an abysmal movie-watcher in relation to 2012 thus far, so I’ll bite. And, art or no art, show business is a *business* and Disney has been consistently trying to land a solid blockbuster since Pirates of the Caribbean, and true I’m not quite sure why there seems to be something a bit frenetic in their desire for this one to succeed, but such it goes.
Whether or not it’s one of the archaic roots (or whether it’s evidence of backstory being lost in translation since as I noted Disney is intent on making a blockbuster franchise here and it’s more likely than not that John Carter will spawn a sequel which suggests, for me, that things will be kept close to the breast of the filmmakers as we’ll have to watch key secrets of our protagonists being revealed throughout the decade) John Carter is –at times devastatingly – low on explanation. This, is a positive in a way because by being low on explanation it also becomes low on exposition which is something which almost always works against so many films of this ilk. Conversely, though, there are things like the machinations between the warring tribe, language barriers (which a serum to help John learn the language comes as a bit silly in a sweet, if inane, kind of way) but it greatly helps that screenwriters Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon are keen on maintain the most basic of storytelling devices and John Carter is not overstuffed with information, laced with a plot which is difficult to discern nor home to silly, ineffectual reveals keen on being plot devices.
In essence, story-wise, what we have here is a competent film. Reasonably detailed character pitfalls and advances, a realistic supporting bracket and very basic plot developments – that’s what the story has going for it. But, as you’d imagine….
I bring it up, though, because in the typical vein of early 20th century literature John Carter is covered with a sheen of seriousness which makes it seem wrong in part for this sort of blockbusterish “this is so much fun” sort of film. Not because it isn’t fun (although, it really doesn’t try to be fun like – say - Pirates of the Caribbean is all about being fun or Captain America for all its serious undertones, and its failed attempts for me, still tries to be fun), but it’s not playful which is why I’d – as a novice – assume is the reason people aren’t as willing to cut it slack for issues they seem willing to allow in other films. But, truly I’m neither here nor there on that. And, even if its handled in the typically basic way you’d imagine it does raise some significant issues like parent/child relationships, honour, with touches at determinism and examining ones place in society.
All’s Fair / B-