John Carter "Thark Side of Barsoom" Review
So I went to the midnight showing of John Carter on Thursday. Instead of choosing to listen to the soundtrack and sound effects offered to me, I choose to listen to Dark Side of the Moon instead.
Think of a movie as a picture book, with many different audio "narrations". Do you want the story of John Carter narrated by a Hollywood studio, a narration attempting to catch the attention of ten-year olds and 80 year olds, and everyone in between? That's a pretty wide and annoyingly complicated net. Or, do you want this $250,000,000 3D picture book narrated by Pink Floyd and you're own sub-conscious? The Pink Floyd road allows you to distill a much simpler story, a much more personal and interesting story, one that does not depend on dialogue, which frees up your eyes to wander around the landscapes provided.
By simpler story, I mean that the dynamics of the politics and the species of the aliens, and the rest of the technical twaddle is unnecessary. You get it: there are those in power, those not in power, there are heroes and villains, there are love interests, and there is death.
There is actually a debate in many critical reviews of the film concerning how much of John Carter is indebted to Star Wars and Star Trek, or how much of Star Wars and Star Trek is indebted to John Carter, as if this makes a difference on the audience's appreciation of the experience. This bears no relevance at all. Regardless of source, right now, in 2012, we all know that the John Carter film is merely a retelling of a story, and if you are over the age of 23, you've seen and read this story countless of times. This is just the new coat of paint.
It's a pretty good coat of paint.
Here's a perfect example of the advantages of eliminating the technical twaddle: there is a moment during the film when certain green dudes are fighting, and yelling at each other in something apparently unintelligible because there are subtitles to translate the argument. Unless you can do both at the same time, did you pay $10 to read what two aliens are fighting about, or did you pay $10 to watch two aliens fight in 3D? Five year old kids are lucky, they don't have this problem, they don't have to choose.
Granted, I was taken by the subtitles for a moment, but as I was involved with a completely different narration. they intruded upon "my" story, and kept my focus away from the incredible detail of the CGI green dudes. Plus from what I did read it seemed utterly ridiculous.
This is an invitation to Graduate, back to the eye of a five year old, with all of its imaginative power, backed up with the storytelling power of your own novelty soaked sub-conscious. You're better than the script, so just throw it away and jump in.
Really, go do this. Put Dark Side on repeat, and push play after the Disney Magic Castle logo fades out.
These are some of my impressions.
The movie is very funny, a comic redemption of, yes, Mr. Mojo Risin himself, Jim Morrison. He's back, and he's come to kick….his bad habits. Jim's a bit of an addict, and a home wrecker, no better than a misogynistic pill popping Republican philanderer, and he's got some growing up to do. And yes, detox is a bitch, so bad that sometimes we think we're on another planet. But hey, if pretending you're living on Mars helps the process, then help the process.
I didn't read reviews, or know the story. So when John Carter appeared as a dead ringer for Jim Morrison, I said "This is about Jim Morrison" and ran with it.
The story is a about transformation, as Jim goes from the hygiene averse, Native American obsessed, spent the night drinking in the desert Jim, to a Jim Carrey playing Jim Morrison kinda Jim, and even a blue skinned Avatar gladiator Jim for a spell, until he finally has the strength to confront his darkest most disturbed nightmare and shed his old ways. New Jim, John Carter Jim.
Jim first meets Bryan Cranston, who plays Walter on Breaking Bad. Hmm…since it's my story book, I get to choose who the characters are, so Cranston IS Walter, and themes of "Breaking Bad" and drugs start to emerge. Walter is a powerful and smart man, who started with good intentions, but got swallowed up by the game…..sounds like Jim Morrison.
When McNulty from The Wire shows up alongside a bald, robed, Aleister Crowley looking guy, I know it's gonna be a great story. Funny as hell too. It was at this point I realized that the humans on Mars were acting cheesy on purpose, in order to bring added attention and depth to the incredible CGI of the actors who weren't really there.
I mean, cmon, there's even a race of Mars humans that all have Mike Tyson's face tattoo.
The human behavior is being portrayed through the eyes of the Martians, or more accurately, through the lens of the divine conscious locked inside Mr. Mojo. I mean, we see him inside not one, not two, but three Black Iron Prisons. Every time he escapes one, he just realizes he's in a bigger one.
Then in the middle of all of this, flashes of his real life, with wife and children, pops in and just freaks me out, reminding me of the level of escapism going on here, both with John Carter, as well as myself. Nice touch.
The jumping thing seems to really bother people, but in the context of my narration, it seems to me exactly how one would eventually navigate a lucid dream world.
And that dog beast he befriends? That's Jim's brain coming back to him, cause Jim's been out of his mind for a long time.
The scene where he buries his two daughters is as gut wrenching and emotional and rightly over the top as I've seen. One of the greatest features of the alternative soundtrack is that there are no programmed audio cues to tell you how to feel. You'll have to buy a ticket to hear how Pink Floyd does it.
This isn't by any means a complete review, but I hope it spells out some of the value embedded here. And if you do try this, let me know. I'm the only one who's seen this fucking movie.
Thark Side of Barsoom