Let's begin with a man and his dog. First, the dog. Woola is an unsightly creature but oddly endearing. He's the size of a pony but he looks more like a lizard or a toad albeit one with six visible legs and hundreds of sharp teeth. He reads all dog though -- a mutant pug. His assignment and then devotion is to guard the human prisoner John Carter (Taylor Kitsch).
John Carter of Virginia has been magically transported to Barsoom (aka Mars) and the green martians who discover him don't know what to make of him though they love his mad jumping skill. Mars' gravity makes John Carter the Earthling a superman, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. When John Carter tries to escape his prison early in the film, he finds it impossible to elude Woola whose multiple legs carry him across the Martian desert in super sonic zig-zag fashion, clouds of dust trailing behind him like a Road Runner cartoon. The adorable mutant pug always appears wherever bouncy John Carter is about to land. Neither man nor beast are moving in a circular fashion but they're not getting anywhere. Eventually they'll be right back where they started.
Points of origin are important. Home, and our journeys to and from it, are at the heart of John Carter's multi-limbed adventure. The four armed green martians who discover John Carter led by Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) are nomadic and their cities are dying. They do their best to avoid contact with the civil war raging around them on Mars. The moving city of Zodonga is home to the evil Sab Than (Dominic West) who aims to rule the entire red planet. Meanwhile the Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) of the beautiful citystate of Helium discovers that her father has arranged for her to marry Sab Than to end the war.
Into this triply divided dying planet lands one John Carter who has been transported from his home to this new one by a magical amulet. We're constantly reminded that John Carter is of Virginia -- the martians even mistake it for his name -- and he wants to go back there. But when he meets the princess he starts feeling a new kind of gravitational pull.
Would it help you to stay focused to know that in Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Mars" novels interplanetary travel robs John Carter of all of his clothing?
MORE AFTER THE JUMP...
In the first book in the series "A Princess of Mars" John Carter leaves earth clothed but arrives on Mars completely starkers. Burroughs makes a big point of reminding you of just that. The Martian Princess is also naked and describes earth clothing as grotesque. Sadly for fans of Friday Night Light's prime slab of beefcake this particular John Carter arrives on Mars with his "grotesque coverings" intact. The film's modesty isn't surprising since gargantuan budgets require a certain kind of MPAA rating and this also happens to be the first live action feature from Pixar legend Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL•E).
You can see the Pixar influence in the confidence of the animation (50% of the characters are CGI) and even, if you're looking hard enough, in the broad strokes of the emotional beats and the storyboarded feel of the setpieces. It turns out that those feel more organic in animated features.
If the plot eludes you, know that you won't be alone. If any movie ever needed a Star Wars style scroll before it began, this is the one. No such scroll appears and there's surprisingly little exposition given that we've been tossed into an entirely alien realm. Or maybe the exposition is just too silly to absorb and it's easy to block out, like the princess theorizing about "the ninth ray" or the confessed destructive strategies of another group of aliens called... oh, never mind. Just sit back, giggle, and enjoy the elaborate visuals. They have the kind of clarity that so often escapes blockbuster cinema which tends to get awfully muddy shoving abundant stuff into ever inch of the frame. Sometimes all you need is a simple image that pops. And thankfully Stanton finds a few here of the comic, action and dramatic varieties.
Whether he finds enough of them for a two hour plus movie is another matter.
And that right there is the problem. By the time the movie is finished laying down the groundwork and introducing the characters, it's time to wrap up, giving the movie an odd rhythm which truncates the emotional arcs while overstaying the plot's welcome. The whole experience gives off the faint sensation of those times when you've watched too many episodes of a TV series back to back and cursed yourself for not saving some for later.
I saw people leaving the theater during the drawn out ending just as I myself was losing interest. A late film plot hiccup filled me with momentary dread "There's more?!?" only to thoroughly revive my interest. It helped that the movie seemed suddenly playful about its convoluted plot and suddenly aware of its interplanetary absurdity with a great flash cut timed to an incantation of "Barsoom". But why did it take so long to arrive at that self-aware place?
Woola and John Carter's hyper jumpy erratic zig-zag chase turns out to be a rather perfect microcosm of John Carter the movie. It never sits still as it leaps from planet to planet, from city to city from setpiece to setpiece. But for all its movement it has trouble getting anywhere whether it's airborne or landlocked, laying down Plot Point A or Z (so. much. plot) or roaming Earth or Mars… excuse me Barsoom.
JANELLE AND BRIAN GEHLING: Proud bigots from Minnesota.
PROP 8 UNCONSTITUTIONAL: The highlight reel.
TOP MODEL MELTDOWN: British model bites back.
DELTA: Penguins fly First Class.
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Students rally in support of fired Tennessee principal Dorothy Bond.
Opponents of LGBT license plate in Indiana trying to void group’s contract with DMV.
Titanic wreck site fully mapped.
Katy Perry linked to Karl Lagerfeld's boytoy Baptiste Giabiconi.
Desperate trial underway: "When he returned to the witness stand Thursday, Desperate Housewives creator and executive producer Marc Cherry for the first time gave a detailed explanation of his recollection of what happened on Sept. 24, 2008, when he struck actress Nicollette Sheridan in the head at the end of a rehearsal."
Joe Sudbay: 500 days since Obama first said he was 'evolving' on same-sex marriage. "I know because I asked him the question."
Britney Spears close to signing deal to join X Factor as a judge.
Shia La Beouf has some major beard and ponytail action going on.
NBC and YouTube to livestream the London 2012 Olympics: "For the first time, NBCOlympics.com is planning to stream all of this year's Olympics events live on the Internet. For those who believe keeping track of statistics is a sport unto itself all that streaming comes out to something like 3,000 hours of live sports which will produce more than 300 gold medals."
Publishing Triangle award finalists announced. "This year’s Triangle Awards ceremony will be held at the Tishman Auditorium of the New School for Social Research (66 West 12th Street in New York City) on April 19th. The Bill Whitehead Award for lifetime achievement will be bestowed to author and graphic artist Alison Bechdel during the ceremony."
Matt Bomer hits LAX with his partner Simon Halls.
Notre Dame Faculty Senate passes two resolutions, one supporting a gay-straight alliance and the other proposing adding sexual orientation to the University's non-discrimination clause.
Country singer Chely Wright opening an LGBT Center in Kansas City, Missouri: "The new center, called the LIKEME Lighthouse, is meant to serve as a place for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their supporters to meet and hang out. It's also the most ambitious project undertaken by Wright's LIKEME Organization. The facility will feature a library and offer exercise and craft classes and events such as health fairs."
Mass Effect gay romance element slammed by Metacritics: “Homosexuality is all fine and dandy, but not when 2 games are suddenly thrown out the window just so a niche of fans can feel like special snowflakes."
Dustin Lance Black wants to see Kirk Cameron on the stand.
Gay conservative group GOProud releases joint statement with Samuel 'Joe the Plumber' Wurzelbacher: “The left and their friends in the main stream media don’t want to talk about the issue most Americans in this country today care about – jobs. Instead, they want a culture war. They want a culture war because they cannot defend this President’s record of failure when it comes to creating jobs and growing our economy. They hope to cynically distract Americans to protect President Obama and his liberal allies in Congress in November. The bottom line is that whether you are gay or straight, black or white, male or female, conservative or liberal, what matters most in these tough economic times is leadership in Washington that will work to create jobs for all Americans.”
The Missouri House has passed a bill that protects gun owners from discrimination, St. Louis Public Radio reports:
Under the bill, gun owners who carry their firearms with them in a lawful manner (i.e. possess a concealed-carry permit) cannot be fired, denied benefits, or otherwise discriminated against. It was sponsored by State Rep. Wanda Brown (R, Cole Camp).
The state still has no law protecting LGBT people from discrimination:
Mike Colona (D, St. Louis - pictured), an openly gay lawmaker, expressed outrage that Missouri would protect gun owners from discrimination but not protect people based on sexual orientation.
“I can be fired because of my sexual orientation, my constituents can be fired because of their sexual orientation," Colona said. "What this body has done is put protecting gun ownership above discriminating against somebody because of their sexual orientation, and I just don’t think that’s right.”
The bill is now headed for the state Senate.
Family Research Council and the 'Christianist' bigots behind North Carolina's 'Values Bus' are promoting the heinous anti-gay marriage amendment ballot measure there by luring kids to their bus by offering free gifts and candy.
When your ideas are morally bankrupt, as is the case of people who are pimping Amendment One to enshrine discrimination in NC’s constitution, you can’t win on logical arguments based on civil law. You have to load up a bus and drive around to convince North Carolinians to vote to “save marriage from the homosexuals” using religion-based bigotry and try to pollute the minds of children by offering up gifts and candy.
Pam has more at FireDogLake.
On today's 700 Club, Pat Robertson told a woman to reject her lesbian sister's invitation to be a bridesmaid in her wedding, Right Wing Watch's Brian Tashman reports.
"....if you go what you’re doing is saying ‘I bless this union and I agree that what you’re doing is right.’ You know the Bible is so clear about homosexuality and when you read in what Paul said, he said, ‘Wherefore God gave them up,’ and having given them up they did evil things with their own bodies, men for men and women with women, defaming their bodies. Read Romans, read the Book of Romans, this isn’t something I came up with, read it in Romans. You say, ‘should I go to my sister’s wedding, should I participate,’ the answer is to tell your sister, ‘I love you but I cannot participate a ceremony that is contrary to God’s word, period.’"
Added Robertson: "If she doesn’t like it, if that breaks the union between you, that’s tough luck."
Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...