|Andrew Stanton (foreground) and Taylor Kitsch during filming on John Carter. Frank Connor / Disney|
Let me start off by saying, I have nothing but respect for Andrew Stanton. The animated films he directed at Pixar are some of the best ever. That's not to say I was thrilled by Disney's John Carter, Stanton's live action directorial debut opening on Friday.
Aside from the pulpy nature of the source material, John Carter didn't live up to my expectations on a number of levels, beginning with the screenplay. Written by Stanton, Brave co-director Mark Andrews, and Michael Chabon, it would never have left the door at Pixar.
You know things aren't going in the right direction when two characters borrow Harrison Ford's and Tommy Lee Jones' "I thought you didn't care" repartee from The Fugitive.
Taylor Kitsch's kitschy (the pun was irresistible) portrayal of the title character makes matters worse. After being right on target in the earthbound scenes, as soon as he arrives in Barsoom, the corn starts coming out of his ears.
How much of the overacting from Kitsch and others in the cast is to blame on the script they were given, their own acting abilities, or Stanton's direction, I don't know.
Even the visual effects are nothing special—not post-Avatar, at least. How is it possible that the CG creatures here are less realistic than the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, a movie two decades old?
By now you may be asking, is there anything good about John Carter? There is, starting with Carter's jumping, surprisingly enough, which the camera follows with a fluid energy.
The action sequences, despite the lackluster effects, are well executed. The same goes for cinematography and music. A battle juxtaposed with painful memories of Earth conveys the character's trauma better than anything else.
Strongest of all are the closing moments—Carter choosing to return to the red planet to be with the (Martian) woman he loves.
Would Andrew Stanton please do the same with Pixar?