Too much plot for fun

2012-03-12 00:00

FIRST-rate special effects in a film are no longer enough. A convoluted plot is one of the flaws of the sci-fi adventure John Carter, and opting for 3D didn’t seem to make much of a difference to the overall effect of the action.

Based on the 100-year-old novel by Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Carter is a story about how the title character (Taylor Kitsch), a cowboy-come-captain from Virginia, is transported through space to Mars (called “Barsoom” by those who live there). Differences in gravity give Carter enhanced strength and agility on the Red Planet, which is in the midst of civil war.

Carter’s initial encounter is with four-armed, green-skinned creatures called Tharks, led by Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe). In the midst of mayhem between the Tharks and the more human-like tribe of Helium, Carter rescues Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins). She’s been pledged to marry a war thug (Dominic West) by her father (Ciaran Hinds) in order to keep the peace between the two tribes, but she resists and asks Carter to join her people in their resistance.

In return she offers him the secret of how to return to Earth. But all is not as it seems, and entrenched in the convoluted plot are immortal creatures, power struggles within the tribes and all sorts of wordy dialogue.

The film has its moments, but when the action seizes and two people have to talk to each other, the pace fizzles out and has to start up again. Each corner of the film is an opportunity to educate the audience about the rules in each Martian subculture or value system. It’s all a bit too complex in the light of the bigger picture and the length is felt in places. The 3D doesn’t enhance the action (which is terrific nonetheless), while the casts seem to have been selected as eye-candy rather than Oscar hopefuls.

It’s clear the film is aiming at a big target, and for that it should be commended, but the bull’s eye seems to have eluded the film-makers, Disney. **

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