Ilove Disney as much as the next person, maybe even more so. From classics like Alice in Wonderland to the more modern Lilo and Stitch; if Walt Disney Pictures are behind it, the odds that I will enjoy the film (maybe even adore it) are pretty good. Recently we have seen The Muppets storm box offices and hearts alike; it’s clear Disney can do live-action just as well as animation. Judging by their previous success, I had fairly high hopes for the new Disney live-action venture: John Carter.
John Carter depicts a war-weary, former military captain played by Taylor Kitsch, who is mysteriously transported to Barsoom (Mars). Carter, who seems to exercise super human strength, reluctantly becomes caught up in a civil war between the multiple races on the planet, including warrior Tars Tarkas (voiced by Willem Dafoe) and Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins). Captured by the native barbarians, Carter quickly discovers that he’s part of a much bigger picture: to save their world, and his beloved princess, the enemies must unite to form an alliance before the looming possibility of extinction becomes a reality.
Adapted from the novel A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (the same guy who brought us Tarzan), John Carter is a bit of a let down. Whilst it’s a brilliant idea in theory, it doesn’t work especially well in practice. Directed by Andrew Stanton, writer and director for the wonderful WALL-E, it’s clear his jump from animation to live-action wasn’t as successful as Pixar colleague Brad Bird’s (The Incredibles to the amazing Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol). Clearly Stanton has been a fan of this story from his childhood, and who wouldn’t be? A relatively normal human is transported to Mars where he learns he can jump really, really high (the difference in gravitational pull gives the appearance of super strength), and discovers we’re not alone in the universe after all. It sounds like the perfect film for an eight year old boy. At 2 hours and 12 minutes, John Carter was far too long for me, never mind audience members under 10.
Continuing my tendency to enjoy a film because there is an animal in it, my favourite part of John Carter was Woola: a pug/lizard hybrid who is as faithful to Carter as man’s best friend on Earth. A little ugly but incredibly useful, Woola is a welcome edition to a dull film. Boasting a wonderful cast comprising of Mark Strong and Dominic West, together with voice acting from Samantha Morton, and Thomas Haden Church; John Carter is full to the brim with talent. Despite this, many of the characters lacked chemistry; even Kitsch and Collins’ romantic relationship was at times unconvincing.
Similar to Avatar, Pocahontas and even Fern Gully thematically, John Carter does not compare favourably to these classics. Unnecessarily long and at times a little confusing, it’s difficult to see how the creator of WALL-E is behind this. Dedicated to the memory of the late Steve Jobs, John Carter is surprisingly dull and formulaic; lacking the creativity Stanton had lashings of at Pixar.