Monday, March 12, 2012

JOHN CARTER is new hero in spectacular film

john_carterEdgar Rice Burroughs wrote about his jungle hero Tarzan for many years. Tarzan has lasted for a century as a fictional hero and no end is in sight. When Burroughs wrote A Princess of Mars, it was originally published as Under the Moons of Mars in 1912. Burroughs used a pseudonym because he was afraid he would be ridiculed for writing a science fiction type story. The series of newspaper episodes became highly popular and were tagged “the Barsoom series,” after the name of Mars in the stories. 

A century has passed, and Hollywood has discovered the stories once again and unearthed the exciting adventure series to turn it into a rousing, spectacular film called John Carter, a nod to the hero in the Burroughs episodes. Pulling the series together into one stupendously enjoyable film was the desire and work of director Andrew Stanton. With a little help from Walt Disney Pictures and $250,000,000 in cash, the film has been realized as a dream come true for Stanton. It may have started out as a big boys’ toy, but it has been fashioned into an audience pleaser extraordinaire. 

The film begins during the Civil War in the United States. So, the audience is probably thinking at first that this is a horse opera. Good enough. There are battle scenes with horses falling and soldiers shooting and shouting. It’s everything one would expect in a Western set in Virginia. There are wonderful characters, one such being Bryan Cranston (TV’s Mad Men) as Colonel Powell, who comes into conflict with the rambunctious former American Civil War Confederate Army Captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch). He’s a handful, I’ll tell you, and nobody is going to shackle him to a post. 

Carter’s dilemma of fighting with the colonel is solved suddenly when BAM! he’s transported to Mars. It is never explained how or why this happened. Maybe I missed it. But there he is, lying in the sands of the Red Planet (really Utah, if you want to know). Mysteriously, it seems to have the same oxygen atmosphere as has earth. So, Carter is not gasping for air nor wearing a glass fish bowl globe over his noggin like in a 1950s film. 

Apparently there is a purpose for Carter’s visit to Mars. The planet is dying from lack of water and its rapidly depleting atmosphere. But the worse thing is the various nations are warring against each other instead of joining together to save themselves and the planet. Carter hooks up with the ungainly tribe of four-armed giants whose leader is Tars Tarkas, voiced by Willem Dafoe. Luckily, Carter meets a human-bodied Princess named Dejah Thoris (was her mother Dejah Voo ?), played by the voluptuous and bosomy Lynn Collins(X-Men Origins: Wolverine). Miss Collins reminds us of all those Maria Montez 1940s movies as a damsel in distress in exotic settings. 

Naturally, the real stars of the film are the special effects. Lumbering animals pound across the dusty plains, enormous flying fighting machines dominate the skies, strange humanoids with four arms fight and have their limbs torn off, and John Carter is in the middle of all this action and excitement trying to defend the planet. It’s Hollywood magic at its best and most imaginative. It’s some of the best CGI ever seen, and it is all in spectacular IMAX 3D. It’s a wow of a film and most of it has never before been seen in such magnitude. 
A word must be said about newcomer Taylor Kitsch. He seems to be the luckiest young actor in Hollywood. With seemingly little experience—appearances on a few seasons on TV’s Friday Night Lights, and a small part as Gambit in the huge X-Men Origins: Wolverine with Hugh Jackman, have made movie-goers aware of his handsome face. He did some time as a fashion model in New York. He appeared in some ads for Diesel and appeared in the infamous Abercrombie & Fitch coffee table book. He starved and was homeless, slept on subways, and moved out to Hollywood to find stardom. He found it. Producers have taken a chance on the Canadian-born hunk and cast him in two of the biggest films to open in 2012. With John Carter destined to open to blockbuster box office, Kitsch is next starring in Battleship as Lt. Alex Hopper in a big screen adaptation of the popular Hasbro game. With Hollywood looking for new leading-men candidates, Kitsch is ready to take his place among the giants of screen stardom.

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