Review: New Worlds for Old: John Carter of Mars

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From   By Tony Williams

Entertainment offers the image of `something better’ to escape into, or something that our day-to-day lives don’t provide. Alternatives, hopes, wishes – these are the stuff of utopia, the sense that things could be better, that something other than what is can be imagined and maybe realized.” (Richard Dyer)

John Carter is that rare creature in Hollywood Cinema: a well-crafted, professionally made, work of entertainment lacking either the infantile regressive features of the Star Wars films (with the honorable exception of The Empire Strikes Back co-scripted by Howard Hawks’s collaborator Leigh Brackett) or the bloated pretensions of Avatar. Unlike the George Lucas franchise, it is a film that can appeal to both adults and children. It never attempts  to insult the intelligence of the audience. Nor is it a weak film derived from other sources that have treated the subject matter much better, such as Run of the Arrow and Dancing with Wolves. It is not dependent on 3-D special effects to make it technologically significant in the twenty-first century. It is more of a high budget B-movie of the type associated with past masters such as Samuel Fuller, Joseph H. Lewis, and Howard Hawks in its aim of telling a story simply, but none the less meaningfully.  Currently available in theatrical 2-D and 3-D versions, it represents a unique alliance of form with content in a balanced type of representation. This is as equally true of the special effects contained within the 2-D version and the extended perception of the 3-D version. In Howard Hawk’s phrase, the film does not “annoy” the audience in bombarding them with special effects, “high-tech” devices that distract from the narrative.

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  • This review contains a lot of good ideas, although in a quite dispersive and unorganized way. The author could have done much better without telling the entire story of the film.

    In any case, the essence of his thought is important, because it underlines how much “John Carter” in the course of the film breaks with certain negative Hollywood traditions, in order to return to a message of hope. This is what the nation really needs and why it would be much better that young Americans view John Carter rather than Hunger Games.

    At one point Tony Williams compares US foreign policy (the Saddam plot) with the Therns’ manipulation of Sab Than. I understand that this is reality (Realpolitik), but it is even much more awful, if it’s delivered without some kind of mission for justice. This promise of utopia is alive on Barsoom and it is represented by the noble people of Helium.

    Rather than with the worst empires in history, America should return to compare herself with its own promises: The land of the free and the home of the brave!

    Funny, that Helium’s national anthem has a quite similare message. Here is the second verse:

    2. Canals span wide on the planet sphere
    Bringing the gift of water so dear
    Faith and science for men so fair
    Helium’s color’s as blue as the air
    We salute our Princess, our banners fly
    Twin towers watching the crimson sky

  • Started out fine until the reviewer revealed his agenda. Some one need to call the sucker-Punch squad. It must be sad to live in a world where everything is seen through politics-tinted glasses. The film doesn’t deserve this kind of treatment either. 🙁

  • My previous comment was perhaps unnecessarily harsh. While there are several political references that seem out of place, the writer also offers many excellent insights.

  • Another article wherein we learn more about the author’s political viewpoint rather than ERB’s. Still, I appreciate Dotar digging these things out; otherwise I’d never see them. And despite the above criticism, I’m glad people are still writing articles about ERB!

  • Interesting article but he lost me on much of his political-slanted comparisons.

    I think it’s easy to find quotes or scenes in movies like “Carter” to support whatever political spectrum you’re on. For example, I consider myself very pro life, and I thought about that when the evil Tal Harjus said he’d crush the opposition “like unhatched eggs”. I almost heard him say “like innocent unborn babies”?

    Or the writer says that while John Carter can escape his crappy world to go to Barsoom, we can’t, but we can at least think we can fight to make our world better. To me, my Barsoom is heaven and I can keep fighting the good fight on earth to help me get there. It’s all how one wants to spin something to fit his/her own beliefs.

    Politics aside, I agree with the writer’s comment that “Carter” is great escapism. But he undersells the way the movie pulls you in to care for the different characters. I liked the movie ’cause I liked watching the characters and what they did. I didn’t get many of the topical/political connections between “Carter” and today’s real world. To me it was just great entertainment.

  • At least there were a few mentions of the movie among the shoe-horned political references. The middle and end portions of the article are thick with agenda-itis.

  • Sorry I’m tired of these film snobs who dimiss Star Wars as mindless kids movies. And yet this guy has the balls to defend Stanton’s cliched approach and gutting of ERB? Yeah right.

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