Movie Reviews. From the Hip.


"What should we see this weekend?"

"Will that be any good?"

"What would DORIEN SAY?"

... Here's what DORIEN SEZ.

Welcome to the premiere movie reviewer that JUDGES FILMS BEFORE THEY COME OUT! Armed only with a few previews and a crack-shot snap judgment, I bring you the most succinct, accurate, and cocksure film reviews this side of the River Wild... which sucked!


Sunday, January 29, 2012

JOHN CARTER (March 9th)

Well, ass my face!  I'd never heard of these books.  It turns out that in 1912, some guy (Edgar Rice Burroughs) began a series of novels about a Confederate soldier who gets beamed up to Mars to discover crazy humanoids, creatures great and small, a princess in danger, and high adventure on the red sands!  There were something like a dozen books written over several decades, and the first has now been adapted into a major motion picture, Disney's John Carter.  Taken at face value, it's a poor man's Avatar (which is so poor it doesn't own shoes), only with sepia tones instead of blue.  But look a little closer and you'll find some nice doo-dads going for it: there's sweet battle action, the cast is top Knox, and the excellent creative team knows how to tell a fun visual story.  But look closer still -- the most close -- and you'll see the truth, bright as Orion's pin head on a winter's night: between the bullshit dialogue, silly little creatures, and a predictable, annoying tone, John Carter comes up short.  Short as that skirt he wears.

I like leading dude Taylor Kitsch.  He was reliable as Riggins in Friday Night Lights to turn in the wisdom and machismo, even if he was a bit even keeled for five seasons.  I hated his Gamibt in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but then one can hardly blame the piglet for drooling sour milkbutter.  That whole thing was fit for the shitter.  As John Carter, he is a perfectly adequate action hero: naturally likable with a southern man's attitude problem, he'll punch you out, jump over your house, flip-kick your gardener, and piss on your property as soon as stand for a threat or rebuke from an adversary.  The crowd will go nuts for his high-flying antics and dry cool.  Unforch, beyond being a scantily clad badass, the character's not all that interesting, and like Neo before him, he's far less charismatic than he should be, considering how great everyone thinks he is.  Nevertheless, as you might have guessed, J. Carter becomes the warrior-savior of a scruffy, peace-loving race, and leads them to battle against evil oppressors.  (You've seen this song and dance before, and if you're like me, you want the bum to move along, and take his show elsewheres.)  When Carter finally gets around to the obligatory, pussified rally speech before an army of funny-looking tallmen, one can't help but remember the Gibsons, Mortensens, and Crowes, whom we've already seen do it much better.

Andrew Stanton has proven himself a whiz-man by co-writing the Toy Story series and directing Finding Nemo and Wall-E.  At the very least, he knows how to tell a gripping story with spectacular cinematics.  But that's why it's curious that so much of John Carter seems stitched together from unused Attack of the Clones footage, from the sandy pit-fight with goofy monster in stadium, to the rubbery, soulless CGI characters.  Like that other filth, John Carter proves that the combination of epic storytelling and hasty writing makes for a very long and ridiculous movie.  The styles of Bryan Cranston and Ciaran Hinds can do no more than elevate their own particular scenes.  Thomas Haden Church, meanwhile, is very good at acting like an alien, in that it seems like he doesn't know where he is, or the meaning of what he's saying.  And Mr. Stanton should have known better than to cast Willem Defoe as Tars Tarkas, Carter's combatant-turned-blood brother, or Wind In His Hair to Kitsch's Dances With Wolves.  On top of goofy animation, Defoe's randy voice and over-the-top readings would make Shakespeare sound cartoonish, let alone these nonsense lines.  I liked him better when he played that fish.

For me, Wall-E was one of the best movies of the last ten years, and my hat and shoes are off for Andrew Stanton to see.  That was a Pixar movie though, and John Carter is all Disney.  Like the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, it's got an elaborate look, big stars, and a formula so played-out it's fumbling with its inhaler, heaving for breath.  Plus there's a stable of sequels waiting to be unleashed.  We all might best AVOID THIS ONE, lest we invite Disney to pound us, Carter-style, with more of this foolishness for the decade to come.

Dorien Sez: D+
Watch the Trailer:


Anonymous said...

This is a very Texan review. I disagree, in oh you Lord so many ways.

Dorien Sez said...

Thank you, Anonymous Friend! I am not Texan, but I appreciate your respectful title of "oh you Lord"! Bravo!

Anonymous said...

"a formula so played-out it's fumbling with its inhaler, heaving for breath"

The plot seems to be drawn from the first three books, which is a shame since there is more than enough to make an awesome movie plot from just the first. I had very high hopes for this movie at first. Should of given in to my first instincts when I saw Disney was producing this as these are very violent books.

Marvin said...

Wow I so want to see this - I read the book series years ago and hope the film doesn't stray too far from them. Edgar Rice Burroughs is a favorite author of mine.

Dorien Sez said...

One can only hope, The Marvin.

Anonymous said...

Top KNOX? What does that mean? Do you mean "top NOTCH?"

Dorien Sez said...

Excellent question. "Top Knox" means BETTER than top notch. This might help answer all your Knox-related inquiries!