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March 9th, 2012

Movie Review - John Carter

John Carter

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!)

Gloria Oliver
Unveiling the Fantastic
www.gloriaoliver.com

Novels


JEWEL OF THE GODS

(2015) Fantasy

The King is Dead! Long Live the Undead King!


Excerpt:
"What are you implying?"

The magister glided forward and scrunched down beside him.

"That in order to bathe, you must first actually get into the bath."





INNER DEMONS

(2014) Urban Fantasy

It took everything from her, except revenge!


Excerpt:
The muscles in my right arm jerked from tension as I tried to make it move and it resisted. A shrill scream inside my head insisted I didn't want to do this. That if I did, there'd be no way to take it back. "I...I'm afraid."



THE PRICE OF MERCY

(2011) Young Adult – Fantasy

Which is worse…the monster without or within?


Excerpt:

Home—family—the two things he would never have, the two things forever denied him…because of her.

Anger welled inside him, the heat of it suffusing him to the core, gurgling with seething emotions the total opposite of the coolness splashing down from the fountain nearby. Before he realized what he was doing, Jarrin stepped inside the gazebo.




CROSS-EYED DRAGON TROUBLES
(2007) Young Adult – Fantasy
“Harry Potter meets Dragon Riders of Pern”

Excerpt:

“Do you need any help?” she asked. “Just tell me what you want me to do. If you prefer, I’m sure I can round up at least a few people to come over and give you a hand.”

Kel slowly shook his head. “It’s all right. Thanks anyway.” His voice lowered to where she almost couldn’t hear it. “This is all part of my punishment.’

She frowned, not understanding what he meant. “Punishment?”

Kel cocked his head in Clarence’s direction. In a flash, she understood. None of this was an accident. Clarence had landed there deliberately, hoping to make Kel pay for all he went through in the past month. She shook her head, not wanting to believe this, but what the dragon said next took any doubts right out of her head.



WILLING SACRIFICE
(2008) Young Adult – Fantasy
“To save the world she must DIE! Or must she?”

Excerpt:

Panic and fear filled with utter helplessness made her dizzy. She knew what would be done with her, she knew what they planned. But there was nothing she could do to stop any of it.

Sharp gasps echoed in her ears as she felt the room’s cold air caress the Eye.

“You were right. She is the one.”



IN THE SERVICE OF SAMURAI
(2002) Adult/YA – Japanese Fantasy Adventure
“The Last Samurai meets Pirates of the Caribbean”

Excerpt:

Laying the blade on the floor before him, Toshi parted his kimono until his stomach lay exposed. He tucked his sleeves beneath his legs to hold him upright if he should falter. Ignoring Asano, he took up the blade. His shoulder flared with pain and he tried not to flinch, as he grabbed the blade with both hands. He turned the wakizashi until its sharp point was aimed at his belly, the residence of his soul.



VASSAL OF EL
(2004) Adult/YA – Fantasy Mystery
“He tried to forget his past, but his past wouldn’t forget him”

Excerpt:

Torren took a step back a sudden shudder racking through him. It was as if he’d never left, as if the boy he’d been would be coming back-though the one who’d loved this room and all these things was long, long dead. That boy died when he’d watched his father’s blood pour forth from his mouth, the end of a sword protruding from his abdomen. That boy died when he survived while everyone else lay dead.

Info, sample chapters, and free reads at www.gloriaoliver.com

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