Another Pixar Animation Studios alumnus strikes again. Just two months ago we were treated to the best Mission: Impossible yet with Brad Bird’s live-action debut, Ghost Protocol, and now here comes Academy Award-winning director, Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, Wall-E), bringing us one of the best sci-fi action adventures in quite awhile. Yes, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter (marking his first appearance in 1912’s A Princess of Mars and played by Taylor Kitsch) has finally made it to the big screen, and was totally worth the wait. While Disney may have dropped the of Mars from the title, this is still the John Carter we’ve been waiting 100 years for.
The main thing I’m beginning to realize after seeing what both Bird and Stanton have brought to the big screen, is that maybe all action directors should have some kind of education at Pixar under their belts. As for John Carter, who better to have brought the misplaced Confederate to Mars than a director who has already “been” to outer space? I think the main thing being brought to the table here is their sense of storytelling taking the front seat to the special effects. Believe me, John Carter is almost nothing but CGI, but oh what glorious feats they are. There haven’t been this good of photo realistic computer-animated characters in who knows how long.
Haters start your engines, but George Lucas, eat your heart out. Here, Stanton wisely uses the effects to enhance story elements rather than trying to polish over the fact that Lucas made three glossy turds and continues to use his computer bay to downgrade his beloved franchise. Filled with plenty of one-liners, John Carter also has something most appreciated, a sense of humor. Had things been played completely straight, it would have been a bombastic bore. I can only pray that Stanton continues the series and he’s already stated that he’s currently writing the first draft of the potential sequel, The Gods of Mars. I’m sure things in the writing department were only helped with the fact that Michael Chabon (Wonder Boys, Spider-man 2, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay) had a crack at the script; along with another Pixar alumnus, Mark Andrews (Pixar shorts “One Man Band” and “Jack-Jack Attack”) co-writing with Stanton.
Backed with terrific cinematography courtesy Dan Mindel (Star Trek), some rather creative editing by Eric Zumbrunnen, another adrenaline-fueled score from my personal favorite composer, Academy Award-winner Michael Giacchino (Up), a great use of 3-D, and John Carter completely deserves to score big at the box office in spite of Disney’s blundering attempts at trying to market the film. Maybe if more of an emphasis was placed on Edgar Rice Burroughs name, maybe tying it in with the fact that he created Tarzan (already a Disney property), or just name drop Wall-E and Finding Nemo, and they wouldn’t be having these problems. As it stands, John Carter is one of the best films of the year so far and will undoubtedly wind up making my list of favorites once 2012 has played out.
Photos courtesy Walt Disney Pictures