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The Crazy Jumping Man of Mars

So I finally got around to watching John Carter. This was supposed to be a HUGE summer blockbuster in 2012 and instead was a critical and financial failure. That said, a few friends insisted that the movie wasn’t that terrible and that I ought to give it a try. 

The movie felt like a mixture of Flash Gordon, Stargate, and prequel-era Star Wars (with a dash of Fringe‘s Observers thrown in). Sort of. Also, our hero leaps around Mars like a flea. A better description would be a flea in a bouncy castle. 

My favorite character is this lizard-dog called Woola that’s just freakin adorable. It sort of has Jabba the Hutt’s face had Jabba been a baby. I know I just used “Jabba the Hutt” and “adorable” in close proximity. It will never happen again.

Anyways, effects-wise, the movie looks really good. Story-wise (and yes, I know this was based on an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel) it’s a little predictable. At the same time, since I know Star Wars and Flash Gordon  and all the adventure serials spawned from the Burroughs novels, I can’t help but wonder what is echoing what?

During one scene, the green Martian Tharks are in some kind of arena to punish Carter and some other Tharks who helped him. The whole scene reminds me of the big arena climax on Geonosis in Attack of the Clones. I half expected a barrage of lightsabers to appear at one point. Did this scene occur in one of Burroughs’ novels? If so, did Lucas base that whole scene after Burroughs or did the moviemakers look to Clones? Chicken or Egg? 

That’s my deep thought for this film which I did mostly enjoy. I don’t think I’ll ever watch it again, but I’m glad I finally got around to it.

Afterthought: Both Ciaran Hinds and James Purefoy are in this movie. Anytime they were near each other, I kept thinking about how Julius Caesar and Mark Antony were going to get the band back together.  I see it as a sign to re-watch Rome





Red Faction: Lacking Action

Gather close young cadets, for tonight I tell you the tale of Red Faction: Origins starring the elusive Robert Patrick. Considering the popular video game series, this movie attempts to do what few movies based on a video game have done before–not entirely suck. Does it succeed? I honestly don’t know. I think it tried.

***And just a quick word to the wise. I’ve written this review in a recap type of format. While I don’t give away the whole movie, I do share a lot. I really don’t think any harm is done, but if you don’t want to know chunks of plot, then by all means, go back to whatever flash game you were playing and get off my lawn!!!***

I knew right off the bat that I was in for a challenge. Let’s begin with the menu screen music. While choosing my Play/Scene Selection options, I was entertained by a musical overture that sounded like a cross between a jaunty adventure tune and some fictional country’s anthem. Possibly one of those fictional eastern European countries housing villains from La Femme Nikita or Alias. Just saying…

Onwards to our feature presentation!  The movie opens with a voice-over from some news/propaganda airing on about 20 TVs in some kind of post-apocalyptic bar where the guy gives a delightful backstory into the Red Faction resistance movement for independence on Mars. The movement was led by Alec Mason (played by Robert Patrick). Under his leadership, the RF’s teamed up with Marauders who, after obtaining victory, allegedly double-crossed the RF’s and killed Mason’s wife and daughter. Bummer. And wouldn’t you know it? Not even 1 minute into the film and our jaunty anthem tune starts right up! It’s going to be in my head for days…

So this whole time Mason has been sitting at a bar doing the whole stoic depressed fallen hero thing. The guy next to him recognizes him and buys him a beer. It’s not a whole beer, mind you. Maybe beer is a valuable commodity on Mars, because it’s like a third of a beer. Mason takes a look at it, and then pours it out. I’d pour out a third of a beer too. What if the bartender was cheap and lazy and handed me someone else’s unfinished drink?  No sir!

And like the awesome Terminator Robert Patrick is, he starts kicking ass and taking names. Only he’s not really a Terminator, so this doesn’t work out so well in his favor. And in steps young Lt. Jake Mason (Brian J. Smith) who has to stop the fight–then arrest his own father for disturbing the peace. Awkward…

Anyhoo, there’s some chatter in some scenes after that. Character intros and stuff that are kind of bland so the scenes are really pointless. I guess we should take this time to introduce the token chick: Tess. She’s a bit jumpy and seems to be insecure with the fact that she’s Earth-born. Must involve the backstory. I’ll go with it. BTW, I’m thinking Tess is supposed to be our comic relief. I’m very concerned.

So, our young Jake’s team of soldiers are off to investigate some long-lost technology, and they take Tess along because she’s some sort of expert in…technology.  My favorite thing about the shuttle they are in is that the pilot obviously graduated from the Movie Mercenary Pilot Flight School. He’s totally got a scruffy, Russian Ushanka on his head and has half a cigarette hanging from his mouth. Nothing phases this guy. The ship loses power and plummets towards the ground. He doesn’t bat an eyelash. He just does his thing and maintains his cigarette. He’s my favorite character so far.

So on this technology expedition, our group of soldiers encounter the remains of a massacre. Many Marauders lie slain all about the set, and these folks in white suits (White Faction??) seem to be responsible. Jake finds himself facing off with one of these rogue agents. When the mask comes off, he realizes it’s his long lost sister Lyra–whom everyone thought dead.  How convenient! And the new problem is that everyone still thinks that–except Jake who had witnessed his mother being killed by soldiers in white and had seen his sister taken.

Okay..skipping around a bit. I don’t want to recap 100% of the movie or give away the whole plot. Ha ha. Jake goes on his own kind of vision quest and is accosted by some rough but jolly Mauraders. We know the head JM guy (I’m gonna call him Jolly Marauder) is a totally good guy because he has a Scottish accent, wears a cape, and carries a cool bo staff. We know where we stand with this one.

So off we go to some town so Jake can meet some guy who knows things. And I swear some homeless dude was adjusting his fake leg and another dude just ran by and snatched it! Obviously this town is a hive of scum and villainy and folk music. Oh good, Tess showed up.

Skipping ahead to Jake finding his sister. He’s infiltrated the White Faction’s secret hideout, and OMG!!! Gareth David-Lloyd is in this movie! He played the beloved Ianto Jones on Torchwood. I love this guy!  Moving on..The head honcho of the WF is easy to spot. He wears an eyepatch and speaks with the low, gruff whisper of Duane Benzie from Spaced. If you’ve never seen that show, then shame on you! Seriously, put it on your queue! Hulu is streaming it for free! There’s no excuse.

So Jake and Tess are caught. Jake confronts his sister who’s totally brainwashed by Duane Benzie and his crew. Also, out of nowhere, the Jolly Marauders show up to help our friends escape. Tess is shot and there was much rejoicing (yay…). Question: All these WF folks walk around in nice, clean white uniform jackets. Like dinner jackets for the military or something. How do they keep them so clean and white on a red, dusty planet like Mars? They must go through the bleach!

I honestly have no idea where the plot is leading us. I’m not sure if anyone knows. Tess is still alive but they keep teasing us that she might die. Robert Patrick has finally remembered he’s still in the movie, and has shown up on the set. Apparently everyone was on the call sheet that day. The chick who leads the Marauders is there, Jake’s dad, leaders of the RF, etc. Anyone not wearing a dinner jacket has been invited to a super secret meeting. Apparently we are at war with the White Faction. But I’m not sure why.

I don’t want to spoil the rest of the movie for you or the ending. So let’s just go over some pros/cons, shall we?

Effects: Pretty darn good for a TV movie. This movie had a budget, and the effects crew knew how to use it. Kudos!

Acting: Ehhhh……I don’t know if it’s the material or the actors. The two main did just fine as far as I’m concerned. The chick who played Tess got on my nerves. I felt she was too plucky. Maybe it’s not the actress’s fault. After all, she was responsible for having to deliver such eye-rolling lines as “Don’t get yourself killed.”  There’s really not much one can do with that kind of dialogue. Which brings me to the next point….

Writing/Story:  My brother had Red Faction and Red Faction 2. What I do remember from those is that games involve a lot of shooting and fighting and action. In this movie, there are a few scuffles and a couple rounds of fisticuffs. That’s it. There are a couple explosions, but nothing truly exciting. It was more of a talky drama. I’m so lost on the backstory of this whole thing, and people keep referencing it. And honestly, since I didn’t get what we were all fighting for, I just didn’t care  Also, there were just some really bad lines: “I will not run from my destiny!” “I will kill someone you hate with this.”  And the one I’m declaring winner:

“We are all Martians.”  Aren’t we all? Maybe…