Title: John Carter
Director: Andrew Stanton (‘Finding Nemo,’ ‘WALL-E’)
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins ‘X-Men: Origins: Wolverine,’ Dominic West and Willem Dafoe
Highly-budgeted action films that are filled with special effects and directed by a respected filmmaker often have high expectations, as with the case with the new Disney live-action movie ‘John Carter.’ The film, which has been in development at Disney since 2007 and is based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 11-volume book series, ‘Boomsoom,’ is sure to please fans of the literary action hero. Featuring impressive motion capture and special effects, subtly mixed with reflections on current society issues, ‘John Carter’ is an entertaining sci-fi action film that relies on its message to move its plot forward.
‘John Carter’ follows the title character (played by Taylor Kitsch), a former military captain for Virginia during the American Civil War, who is inexplicably transported to Mars while looking for a fabled cave of gold. Upon landing on the red planet, he is captured by a Jeddak, Tars Tarkas (portrayed by Willem Dafoe in motion capture), a leader of the Tharks, one of the dueling nations on the planet. While trying to get back the medallion from the Tharks that will guarantee this journey back to Earth, John also meets Princess Dejah Thhoris (played by Lynn Collins). Dejah protests her father’s decision for her to marry Sab Than, the Prince of Zodanga (portrayed by Dominic West), in order to save their city of Helium. So she allies with John and Tars’ daughter Sola (played by Samantha Morton in motion capture) to not only help him get back home to Earth, but also to end the battling on her own planet.
‘John Carter’ surprisingly features a reflection of society’s current perils. While the title character was first featured in the first ‘Boomsoom’ story, ‘Under the Moons of Mars,’ in 1912, the sci-fi action movie mirrors the battles humanity is facing today. While John is a newcomer to Mars, he is the main one who has the courage and drive to stop the waring species on the planet. He shows that it takes an external force to prove that fighting over power and purposely destructing natural resources can completely ruin life.
John actually learns from his past mistakes of not being able to protect his family during the Civil War. His desire to protect those he has come to care about on Mars, despite their differences, motivates him to risk his own life to save those around him. After coming to understand and care for Dejah, Tarks and Sola, John moves past his self destructive ways stereotypical of many action protagonists, and would rather do anything he can to save innocent lives.
Director Andrew Stanton included mesmerizing special effects in ‘John Carter,’ which had a reported budget of $250 million. The motion capture of the Tharks and the other species inhabiting Mars is unique and distinct from many current sci-fi films, proving how different life on Mars is from Earth. Each species has its own distinct movements, while the motion capture gave the characters a subtle humane feeling. The Tharks, for example, have looming presence over the rest of the characters, due to their tall stature. But their protectiveness over their own kind is representative of the truly caring nature the Tharks have for each other.
The massive, distinctive Martian sets used during John’s time on the red planet makes it plausible that the film actually does take place on another planet. The scenes that took place on Earth, chronicling John’s time after the war are dark and gloomy, and are representative of his depressed mood over losing his family. But when he travels to Mars, the futuristic ships and buildings become vibrant and colorful, indicative of his rising confidence that he can truly protect and save the planet.
While rooted in the deep history of the ‘Boomsoom’ series Burroughs created 100 years ago, ‘John Carter’ successfully represents the societal issues the world is facing today. The film showcases the destructiveness warring countries have on mankind and their planet’s natural resources. Combined with memorable, creative sets and impressive motion capture, ‘John Carter’ will surely please fans of the novels.
Written by: Karen Benardello