Cheesy, even ludicrous but highly enjoyable blockbuster Sci-fi fantasy adventure
, 06 Mar 2012
I saw this at a preview screening in London.
I never read any of the books so only had a vague synopsis of the story just from trailers which didn't really impress me much.
Well, this turned out to be quite a blast. Its an enjoyable if very cheesy Sci-fi fantasy blockbuster. It has the spirit and energy of Flash Gordon including its own outrageously nonsensical but fun premise. It isn't as cheesy as that film but there is a definite lean towards it. The story is quite a novel mix of Planet of the Apes, Conan, Red Sonja, Avatar, Star Wars and Superman (yep this is a superhero movie too). We even have a western thrown in the mix at the beginning. I was going to say there isn't anything original here but how can I? This story was published in the 19th century so from that perspective, I can now see a lot of plot influences deriving from this in later SF/fantasy films.
A lot of money was spent on this movie and it shows. The special effects here are pretty awesome. Not necessarily ground breaking, everything on screen has been done before but its all smoothly done at a grand scale though not quite to the scale of the Star Wars prequels. Effects that stood out for me were John Carters 'Hulk' like jumps, Martian sky ship battles, green martians (as good as Avatar), and a cute monster dog sidekick that almost steels the show.
Another major feature of the film was the cinematography. Its quite spectacular and for a barren dead desert planet, its surprisingly stunning.
Taylor Kitsch who plays John Carter has just about enough screen presence portraying a likable anti hero with a punchy attitude and a sense of past history haunting him. Its a Han Solo type role but he plays it more brooding. There is even a Princess Leia and the age old storyline of helping a Princess to fight a war but each with their own agendas. Its all very clichéd, yet still enjoyable.
One of the biggest surprise for me was the 3D. It is a post conversion, which most often results in poorer quality than films which are filmed in 3D from the start. But an exception can be made here. This is hands down the best 3d conversion film I have seen. The 3d depth was outstanding and really shows its power in numerous landscape and action scenes. This is probably the 2nd best 3d live action film I've seen overall (either filmed in 3d or post converted) and I am normally anti-3d when it comes to live action films.
As much fun as I had with this, there is no denying that there is a lot wrong with it too. I could pick on flaws and lack of logic all day long with this film some of which are smack on the head stupid and some elements I desperately wished more or better development on. The dialogue while often funny, also often dive bombs into cringe-worthiness (much like a Lucas script), the developing romance was very disjointed and sometimes embarrassing (think Anakin and Padme levels of embarrassment). The 3 way war politics was not very clear cut, major characters not fleshed out enough and there's a whole lot of story loopholes. Yet there is still a lot more fun to be had to override those flaws.
I have a feeling that book lovers will be disappointed because I can detect a lot of back story is missing here and key characters seem very short changed on their development and motives (particularly with the green martians) which I am sure would have been fully fleshed out in the book. However, I reckon if you enjoy films like Thor and GI Joe, you'll have a great time with this. This wont be a classic or even a cult movie but it is a satisfying piece of cinema escapism. And its enough for me to want to read the books!
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