Every March Hollywood thrusts forward a summer blockbuster that is neither summer nor blockbuster. It has a habit of being directed by Zack Snyder and always contains overly heavy CGI. This year, that film is John Carter.
It is also a $250-million risk, and this adaptation of old Edgar Rice Burroughs pulp novels has a great deal of potential energy for backfiring. The fact that the film is repetitive and not particularly eye-catching for the investment makes it even a greater risk.
Directed by Wall-E’s Andrew Stanton, John Carter does haves a wry sense of humor that’s occasionally fostered by the sort of witty editing that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo should have had. That’s a good thing, because it doesn’t have much else. The titular post-Civil War outlaw isn’t the only one here to commit theft. Right now, George Lucas is looking around the bedroom and checking his things. As well as the Eighties version of Flash Gordon.
The appropriately named Taylor Kitsch handles the title role, as a Civil War veteran who chases an alien into an Arizona cave and travels across the galaxy to a war-torn planet. There he is rescued and enslaved by a savage race of hulking green men, then enlisted into a civil war by a free-spirited princess (Lynne Collins). Freed of normal gravity, he becomes a great warrior, fighting strange creatures. However his greatest battle might be with all the characters who stop to tell him the plot.
Recently, Hollywood has taken the occasionally used term “space western” a little too far. John Carter is the latest number to import sci-fi tenets into cowboy stories (Cowboys and Aliens being another)–I’m not sure why. It’s a little like Shakespeare films being reformatted for high-school. It seems to be a trend to make Westerns “relevant” for digital age audiences. As it doesn’t seem that this trend is going that well, I have a question: couldn’t we just make Westerns again?