John Carter

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The story goes an year back, when I felt the horrible lack of respect to one movie which was better than another movie which was released in 2009. This better movie was John Carter and the inferior movie was Avatar. Even as the box office results and the critics say the other way around, the truth is not to be hidden. John Carter is superior to Avatar in each and every aspect, and unfortunately, the brainwashed audience go for movies reading the biased reviews of the so called critics. Well, how many times do someone have to tell these movie fans who read the fake paid reviews and look forward to to the hype, to listen to themselves and the less-hyped movies? For the same reason, I shall give this movie a little more in its ratings, for what it lost in its box office collection and the critical reviews. Seriously, why Avatar? What has it done other than building on the Pocahontas story and even becoming incredibly similar in theme to the Malayalam movie Vietnam Colony? Didn’t Avatar also get enough from this movie’s original story, A Princess of Mars, the science fantasy novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs? Still, it is hailed as the epic and became the highest-grossing film of all time, as well as of the United States and Canada; it is such a shame that there are two ways of treating the same material, the inferior one getting all the applause.

John Carter is more original than Avatar, being the right adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 1917 novel, A Princess of Mars. It works as a perfect interplanetary adventure rather than a predictable world where one of the attackers get a candle lit in their brains and decide to get on the side of the helpless defenders. It has a dry and rather dark environment compared to Avatar which works very positively. Even the story is set in a more admirable world, with teleportation being the method rather than those giant space ships which repeats themselves in each and every movie, as the number of science fiction movies featuring space ships and the end of the Earth has reached a new record, as if they are too much interested in ending the Earth with that Voluntary Retirement Scheme which features the world’s most interesting voids which keeps creating more of themselves and call it science fiction, when they are actually confused what kind of creation they have actually given to the viewers. One has to wonder how much satisfaction they get by creating the same thing again and again.

After the sudden and unexpected death of John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), his nephew Edgar Rice Burroughs (Daryl Sabara), attends the funeral. As per Carter’s instructions, the body is put in a tomb that can be unlocked only from the inside, and Burroughs is left with his journal to read and know more about what has happened. It tells his epic story when he is accidently transported to what seems to be a dying planet, Barsoom, a name which is used by inhabitants for what is known to Earthlings as Mars – with a harsh desert environment deprived of vegetation and even water on most of the areas. Because of his variable bone density and the planet’s low gravity, Carter is able to jump very high. But he is captured by a group of Green Martian creatures, called the Tharks and their leader Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe). Meanwhile, the princess of the city of Helium, Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) escapes from a possible marriage to Sab Than (Dominic West), the leader of the city of Zodanga who is armed with a special weapon obtained from the Therns, the creatures who take the role of the gods of Mars and control the world through manipulation.

After Carter and Dejah unite in the Thark camp, they escape with the leader’s daughter, Sola (Samantha Morton) after being sentenced to death for entering their sacred temple. They decide to get to the end of a river sacred to the Martians in an attempt to find a way for Carter to get back to Earth. Instead they obtain information about the ninth ray, a source of poweful, infinite energy which only the Therns can use to their advantage in a variety of ways, the same thing which they used to strengthen Sab Than, so that Helium would be taken over and may be even destroyed, as Dejah herself was so close to unlocking its secrets; something which would have threatened their own existence as gods, knowing, controlling and manipulating everything on Mars. But before they realize anything else, But they are attacked by the Tharks who are manipulated by the Therns. After Helium troops arrive for help, Dejah agrees to marry Sab Than. So, it is upto the Earthling to save the day, but he is captured by the Thern who tells him how he has manipulated civilizations around the world for centuries in what he calls restoring balance in the world is theirs to control. This leaves Carter with more to deal with other than just a cruel, mindless ruler.

He was very good as Remy LeBeau a.k.a Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but this one is undoubtedly his best role ever. It is with amazing skill that he has changed from the former soldier to the defender of Mars; from John Carter of Earth to John Carter of Mars, from John Carter of Virginia to John Carter of Helium, from just a cavalryman on Earth to the saviour, redeemeer, hero and the prince on Mars. Adding Daryl Sabara as Edgar Rice Burroughs seemed like another brilliant idea which helped the movie to become a complete whole, both as a film and a literary adaptation. Lynn Collins looks incredible, outdoing the Kayla Silverfox of X-Men Origins: Wolverine; the two has united for good in this movie, it seems. If there is any doubt if she isn’t a princess of Mars, that would be a clear case of blasphemy in its purest form as long as all the concepts of a princess are concerned. She looked so immersed in that character, and if someone says there is no Helium nor Barsoom, she would be surprised. Strong in will and strong in combat, and surely not trailing in beauty to any other soul around her. It is good to see James Purefoy after watching two of his great movies, Solomon Kane and Ironclad, even as it is in a minor role.

John Carter has the advantage over Avatar in its pacing and characterization, and its environment, even if not too bright and heavy with so much unwanted elements of nature, gives a good effect on the screen – it looks real, unlike the all-time box office topper. Just like a university topper, college topper or class topper is not the best or not even near the best, Avatar can bow down to this movie in that alternate reality which would never come to existence in this world. Well, people are slowly coming to know about this one and how awesome it is, and thus John Carter will be hailed much later at least by a few sensible people. The lack of mechanized warfare, and the absence of blue people can be added as that advantage, but still there are the green ones who live a similar subaltern life as the human-like creatures fight each other and cause collateral damage. If we look closely, it is the species looking closer to humans that are always causing trouble – not really a thing to be proud about, I guess.

John Carter is actually a movie of a revolutionary in many ways – and that man is Carter himself who fights for the people to whom he doesn’t belong, the land to which he is not part of, and brings justice and equality not only to the human-like Martians, but also the oppressed subaltern in the form Tharks. The enslavement by the Therns will be also almost over with his success. He is that Earthling who changes a world for good, thus becoming a man of the cause. If there is any story that can inspire one, this is it. With that ending which the movie has got, there is no reason why one wouldn’t watch it on Star Movies, every time it makes an entrance. On a parallel Earth, this would have been a grand success, but in this world of prejudice and the love for nonsense movies, one has to ask an impaled dead body for truth and the right facts about a movie; for there is not much that one can gain by reading the reviews – never to believe what is written out there, as they misguide you and lead you to the wrong movie, which is why every movie missed is a grand tragedy!

Release date: 9th March 2012
Running time: 132 minutes
Directed by: Andrew Stanton
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Mark Strong, Ciarán Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy, Willem Dafoe, Daryl Sabara, James Purefoy, Thomas Haden Church

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.

Table No. 21

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There are times when one has break the narrative and the flow, and come up with something which he missed in his writing, something which deserved to be there, but faded into the void even before threatening to make an impact. This would need a flashback and some scratching of the memories, and here comes one movie which was left out thinking that it was released in 2012 while remembering the dates from February when this blog was started, but actually the date was 4th January 2013 – but considering how good a movie it is, there is the need for it to be present here, and here I add this one to the middle of the others, almost like inserting the past into the present even as 2013 as a whole could be considered the present. This can be more considered as a guest, or a former tenant who couldn’t stay in the house enough to make it known to the neighbours and the people of the town or village. Well, Table No. 21 is much more than a simple tenant – it is more of an owner of its own genre, something which would be revealed more as we progress. Welcome to the group, forgotten movie – for you are to be remembered in this post with a status as good as the others, as belonging to the present, for you deserve it; this is more of a honorary status.

I am being lenient on this one considering my ignorance which was inflicted upon this so brutally, even as the brutality affects not even Mickey Mouse. The question would be more like how much brutal this movie can be – and how cruel the game master can be. Well, this is about a game, and that much should be certain for everyone who has read something about the movie. The unemployed couple Vivaan (Rajeev Khandelwal) and Siya (Tena Desae) gets a chance to visit Fiji. To add to the glory of visiting the beautiful islands, it is their wedding anniversary. But all the beauty tends to take a wrong turn as they encounter Mr. Khan (Paresh Rawal), the owner of the resort who invites the couple to take part in a live game show named Table No. 21 which offers a breath-taking amount of 10 million Fijian Dollars as the prize money – something which would convert to crores of rupees. The rules are simple – a total of eight questions will be asked regarding their personal life for which they have to answer truthfully with an yes or no, and have to do the task assigned to each question. They are not allowed to quit in the middle of the game, and neither can they skip a question or its related task. Their mobiles are taken away and are surrounded by cameras and henchmen.

The questions first seem very easy to answer and the confidence level reaches new heights for the couple, as if they were made for this game and all their financial needs are soon to be met. Their doubts about this is an idea to make fun of them, slowly vanishes. The first question about their love and the task to kiss in public was of no trouble. The question concerning them knowing each other and the task of Siya eating non-vegetarian is also of not too much difficulty. The question concerning manipulating others and the task of instant manipulation creates no tension even if it leads to slight suspicions which they leave behind thinking about the huge amount of money which awaited them. Then comes the difficult parts, the need for blood which is the first dangerous and life threatening situation of the game, as Vivaan answers he would go to any extent to save his love – the point is that here he has to fight his tendency to faint at seeing blood to save her by filling a bottle full of his blood and use it as a key to unlock a glass cage short of oxygen. Even in an unfamiliar territory, as the need had arisen, the task is completed right in time.

The question of love continues, and the task involves shaving Siya’s head to which they protest, but is brought back into the game by threatening, with the lady ending up with a shaved head. The next question is about domestic violence, and Siya is asked to return a slap she recieved from him with full force, a point when they realize that the master of the game knows more about them than they thought, even the most personal details. The task involving Vivaan vandalizing a random car puts him in trouble as he gets beaten up as well as getting almost caught by police, and what it does worse is when he asks help and thus breaks the rules landing his wife in trouble. He arrives in time to save his wife, but that is not the last of the troubles, as the game goes on, the situation becomes even more strange and horrible, and they realize that their past is being reminded in a horrid manner. But the true realization comes only the end, and it is where the game master is justified and the hidden truth of the past is revealed to the audience. But this revelation never overpowers the thrills and the social message, as the balance is successfully maintained. An another message could be said to be against the greed and never-ending avarice, the desire for easy money and also about the meaninglessness of reality shows.

Parwesh Rawal seems to have the movie working like a flawless machine with his performance as the game master. He is the most hospitable resort owner, the sadistic manipulator and a loving father, three in one. Even as he has the second personality during most of the movie and may be before the horrid twist happens to the game, there is no loss of the power of trio in himself. Rajeev Khandelwal does his character in a rightly truthful manner. There is no exaggeration of the personality and there is nothing unnecessary added to it; the simplicity in complexity attributed to the character is lesser only to that of the game master – he traverses from the inflictor or pain to the vulnerable one at the recieving end. Tena Desae as Siya – has blended in well from the beach, bikinis and love to fear, anxiety and absolute horror. From having a shaved head to being in one of the worst situations for a damsel in distress at a strip club, from the passionate and loyal lover to losing her character and trust, from the photogenic lady in bikini to the oppressor who became the oppressed, it is quite a powerful performance adding to the strength of the film. There is no flat, static character among these, for they have all gone through the much needed changes.

The movie rests on the three, and if we add the next two important characters, the whole suspense would be lost. As the clues, there is the college were these two met and fell in love and there is the case of ragging. There is no loss of intensity in that flashback story too. The bottomline of the movie is its message that ragging is not a joke, but a crime. The title of the movie comes from the article 21, on the protection of life and liberty. The message is as powerful as the movie, and the use of flashbacks has worked perfectly to suit the overall mood of the movie, and the whole game is more or less a recreation of their cruel deeds at the college as the seniors. Even the uneasy silence and the absence of descriptions in the movie makes an impact and the whole setup which leads to one powerful social message is the ultimate triumph of the movie. But, the message is not used as a propaganda. A joke is no joke that causes harm to others and having fun at the expense of others is both a sin and a crime – this is the best way it can be summarized. The injection of reality into unreality in a sincere manner as to create the feeling of truth – it is surely not something many horror movies desire to achieve and not something any popular horror movie has come up with so far.

The greatest advantage of this movie is that it surprises you – right from the beginning to end; almost every moment has a certain amount of unpredictability associated with it, sometimes with the twists of plot and sometimes with the performance of the cast. There are lesser moments when it would seem that this one has lost its gasoline, but then it comes up with an alternative fuel which takes over and makes this one run better. The biggest of the twist comes up with the social message which is the most striking element of the movie and how it is unveiled is a method of slow, step by step ignition leading to the big catastrophe of ultimate success. There was rarely a moment when the movie was not ahead of the audience, creating that element of spooky suspense, and by the end, one comes to know how much ahead it really is, in a world where the suspense horror movies never really got its due – suffering from a typical horror movie rights violation due to some too-natural or never-natural romantic love stories which never really deserved to be called movies; therefore this is your welcome break and not to be missed even for a chance to go to Mars and be imprisoned by the Martians virtually created by the lies of science which people adore and would never cease to believe.

Release date: 4th January 2013
Running time: 108 minutes
Directed by: Aditya Datt
Starring: Paresh Rawal, Tena Desae, Rajeev Khandelwal, Dhruv Ganesh

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠The Vampire Bat.