After seeing the fantastic Avengers movie at its opening, we went to see a dollar showing of John Carter over the weekend. Even though I read the reviews when it came out, I had high hopes. They got squashed. It wasn’t awful, but then it wasn’t good either. I do hate to see a fantasy movie turn out flat, especially since they spared no expense. As a writer, it made me wonder why. How can I avoid this in my own stories?
First off, I didn’t connect with the characters. Though they pulled a couple of tricks to make the mc likable, they failed or they came too late. The guy had pluck and determination. That came across in the first scenes and was maybe the only humorous part. A bit later, he went out of his way to help the wounded cavalry officer that was chasing him. But John Carter, the man, had no humor, no wonder for the fantastic situation he found himself in (think Avatar). Also all the back story of a dead wife and child was left until the end of the picture. I know back story is usually something to be avoided or dealt in bits and pieces, but, honestly, I felt the lack. I couldn’t get to know the character because I didn’t know his past. I couldn’t understand his motivation. Everything was set up to make him sympathetic, but it failed.
Also I saw no reason for the leading couple to fall in love unless it was because of their extreme good looks and skimpy outfits. They had no inspiring dialogue of any sort. He saved her life, she saved his—it was most correct and dull.
Supporting characters were brought in for scenes and then vanished. They weren’t given any context or back story either. One guy saved John Carter as a favor to the female lead. Since I knew nothing of his relationship with the girl, I couldn’t guess nameless guy’s motivation. Was she his sister? His ex-girlfriend? I never got any closure on this and most of the lesser characters (whether they had two arms or four) came across exactly the same—empty.
The bad guys left me luke warm. Apparently they were evil, but I didn’t feel it. They never did anything suitably evil on an individual level. It was all grand epic sort of evil of destroying cities and flying ships with blue death rays. Well, wiping out cities or boat loads of people I know nothing about doesn’t exactly move me. They needed a Darth Vador strangle the subordinate moment. Or how about a kick the dog while shooting the best friend scene to make watchers really hate them. To tell the truth at the big finale, I wasn’t rooting for either side.
Special effects it had in gobs. I think we all know special effects can’t carry the show when characters are flat and motivation is missing. I'll have to read the book. One summer movie disappointment down, I’m hoping for better to come.
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