He's responsible for two of the most popular animated films ever. #9 and #8 on Rotten Tomatoes list of the best 75 animated movies ever. And he wrote most of the other Pixar movies that round out the Top 10.
Is there any wonder Woola is so damn lovable?
But what would the plot have been without Woola?
Director: Andrew Stanton
People keep making a big deal about his last name: Taylor Kitsch
Great abs: Lynn Collins
Showing up in EVERYTHING, and showing great range in everything: Ciaran Hinds
Reprising his typical role: Mark Strong
Reminds me of Joe Piscopo: Dominic West
Steals his scene, as he did in A Knight's Tale: James Purefoy
Takes on the funniest bit parts: Bryan Cranston
Plays John Carter's Thark mom: Samantha Morton
Play's John Carter's Thark mom's dad: Willem Dafoe
Still confused about his decapitation: Thomas Haden Church
Edgar Rice Burrows Meta-version with great facial expressions: Daryl Sabara
Here's the thing. I didn't care about the movie until Woola appeared. As CRAZY as the idea of John Carter (Kitsch) being on Mars is, it didn't feel crazy.
By now, most people are aware that John Carter is a 100 year old story. That Edgar Rice Burrows wrote the book that is the source material: A Princess of Mars. That a lot of our superheroes and Sci-Fi and fantasy stories are derivative of Burrows's story. Critics are pointing out that while the source material may have been original, the movie isn't.
Seeing four-armed Tharks? It's new. But it's not different. I've seen aliens in movies.
I've seen cool ships battle in the sky. I've seen a super-powered bad guy fry his enemies with his special power.
I've seen space travel.
I can't tell you anything about this movie that is...different.
EXCEPT WOOLA. I've never seen a gulumphing 10-legged dog thing that can run, according to the official Disney chart, 250 mph.
Stanton knew exactly what he was doing when he made Woola pup-like.
The logic goes: we attach to Woola, Woola's attached to John Carter, we attach to John Carter, John Carter is attached to Dejah (Collins) and Tars (Dafoe), we attach to Collins and Tars, Collins is attached to Helium's cause and Tars with the Tharks, we attach to Helium's cause and the Tharks, Helium is concerned about the wellness of Barsoom and the Tharks are part of Barsoom, we attach to Mars enough to call it Barsoom instead of Mars.
Usually we don't care about a character until someone else cares about a character. In Terminator 2, we don't care about Schwarzenegger's T-800 until 10-year-old John Connor cares about him. We care about Little Foot's mom, in The Land Before Time, because Little Foot cares so much about his mom, and we've connected with Little Foot because he's a fucking dinosaur and dinosaurs are awesome.
Maybe this is due to the mirroring cells in our brain. But we often empathize with characters. So when they admire someone that is genuinely admirable, we also admire that character. Optimus Prime is the coolest Autobot because he's one of the biggest, definitely the noblest, but also because all the other Autobots think he's cool and show him mad respect. They revere him. (Another thing I think the Bay movies don't do well. I will forever argue that the 1986 animated movie gives Optimus more characterization and awesomeness in 15 minutes than all three of Bay's movies combined).
I'd be surprised. No. I'd be shocked if anyone who liked this movie DISLIKED Woola. And I'd bet people that HATED this movie still liked Woola.
There are articles appearing about Woola. For good reason. I think he's the best thing about the movie. And is the key to the movie. ("But wait, there are critics there who talk bad about Woola! You just said 'And I'd be people that HATED this movie still liked Woola.' HA! That's not true." Calm down. Critics aren't real people.)
Without Woola we're left to connect with Carter on our own. Or we have to wait until Dejah starts to admire him. But her admiration, while immediate, is quickly stifled (in order to draw out the romance). Which would stifle our admiration. Which means we'd have to wait until...he saves Helium? That's a long time. Even then, we don't see much admiration. He gets married, like...immediately. There's no parade. There's no time spent seeing Helium's appreciation. No one's like..."Who the fuck is this guy? Where'd he come from? Why's the Princess marrying him??????"
Even when he saves Tars Tarkas, that's a moment where we should be like, YEAH!, John Carter's awesome! But the plot moves on. He rallies the Tharks to war. We don't really see them...honor John Carter, or be in awe of John Carter. There's no moment like in Avatar when Jake Sully rides in on Toruk, the largest dragon in the land. The admiration for Sully is evident. The awe is evident. Plus, the meaning of this action was set up early. The closest we're given to mass-awe in John Carter is the Thark's raucous applause. But they applaud at violence of any type. If the white apes (racism?) had torn Carter and Tars to shreds, there would have been raucous applause.
I guess there's Tar Tarkas's obsession with John Carter's jumping. And there's awe when he saves Dejah for the first time. Dejah's in awe. Tar is like "I TOLD YOU HE COULD JUMP!" The Tharks give him all the best spoils. But the scene is comedic. Dejah is considered a spoil, and the other stuff is junk ("haha, they consider that worth something!"). The focus on the scene isn't the Tharks' reaction to Carter. It's Dejah and Dejah's reaction. And Carter's fascination with her. So while we're impressed with his jumping, with his fighting, we don't appreciate it because the film doesn't take the time to appreciate it. Carter's actions are followed up with comedy and a focus on kindling the relationship between John and Dejah. The plot moves forward and an opportunity is lost.
And if we don't have Woola, how else does John Carter escape from Matai Shang's (Mark Strong) clutches during the wedding parade?
The most important thing about Woola: he's Barsoom-bound. Say Woola is the character we care about the most. Or like the most. When John Carter is returned to Earth, JC is sundered from everything he has come to care about, to love. He's frantic to get back. Likewise, we're also separated from what we we care about: Woola.
So now we identify with Carter. Because we're stuck in his perspective, we understand how he's feeling. He wants to go back. And we probably would rather be on Barsoom than following John around late-19th century America....
I think this is the smartest thing the film could have done, or that Burrows did, whoever's responsible. I didn't read the source material. If the logic sequence worked right, if you went from connecting with Woola, to admiring Carter, to liking Dejah and Tars, to caring about Helium and the Tharks, to liking Barsoom, then Cater's ejection is flummoxing. What happened to the happy ending?!?! TEN YEARS HAS GONE BY?!?!?! Okay, wait. He's going back. He's going back! BUT TEN YEARS HAS GONE BY!!! .....what's happened on Barsoom? Is everyone alright? Have the Therns succeeded? Did Mark Strong kill everyone, as he's wont to try to do? Have the Helium-ians and the Tharks become BFFs? Is Dejah okay? Is Tars okay? Sola? Is Barsoom? What's going to happen when John gets back there??? WHEN'S THE SEQUEL COMING OUT?!?!
And if the sequence didn't work, if you never cared about John or the rest of the human characters, I'm guessing that, at the very least, you're wondering if Woola will be in the next movie.
Did I Like It:
Yes. I mean. I didn't love it. I think kids will probably really love it (coughcoughWoolacoughcough).
Seeing it on the "big screen" wasn't amazing to me. My TV would have sufficed. I'm really happy I didn't see it in 3D.
The pulpy elements made me laugh a lot. I think if the movie had marketed itself as a spoof of the genre, critics would give it more positive points. Even if it was the same exact movie. It's all in how you frame.
Like the early scenes with Powerll (Cranston). Carter tries to fight the soldiers, they knock him out. He wakes up standing in Powell's office. Powell's talking to him, and Carter head-butts Powell, tries to escape. They stop him. He's cuffed and sitting in the chair in Powell's office. Powell tries talking to him again. And Carter JUMPS OUT THE WINDOW. Cut to him being thrown in a cell. The repetition and escalation were hilarious to me. And this kind of goofiness pervades the movie and kept me amused. I'd say Woola was designed in this same "spirit". Woola is ridiculous.
Purfoy's scene is similar. Very comedic and goofy. "Take me hostage." "What?" "Take me hostage." "Are you out of your mind?" Purfroy grabs Kitsch's sword and puts it to his own throat "Oh, no! He's taken me hostage!"
If Sab Than has that 9th Ray weapon that's so powerful he can shoot a laser and fry things, why doesn't he just fry John Carter rather than sword fight him? I know Shang told Than not to kill John Carter early in the movie. But, I think by that final scene all bets are off, aren't they?
Also. If the Therns want to kill Carter, why do they wait until they think he's gone back to Mars? Why not kill him like....immediately? And why do they have to wait for Burroughs to open the crypt? If the 9th Ray shit can turn a human being into dust and destroy aircrafts and decimate cities, why can't it burn through a door? And why try to stab Burroughs instead of just burning him with the Ray?
These questions bother me.
I don't think it's a very good movie. But I had enough fun. I liked it way more than The Artist.
Oh. The thing that bothered me the most was Carter's fight against Tal Hajus (Thomas Haden Church), the one tusked Thark. Hajus leaps from his throne (I liked that throne) and Carter leaps for Hajus. And Carter decapitates him???????????? Hajus has FOUR ARMS. Four swords. You're telling me Carter just...knocked all four arms aside and cut dude's head off? I guess that's what happened. I mean, Carter did kill like....7,000 lunatic Thark-like creatures a half-hour before. He is super strong. I just...why not show it? Because it's a PG-13 movie? Why cut the head off at all then? I just think it could have been done better.
What It's Good For:
-kids, great for kids
-seeing Lynn Collins
-sometimes moves on to the next action without spending enough time in reaction
-motivation isn't always clear
-is made derivative by its own offspring
% Character / % Actor's personality or previous roles
Hinds: 90/10 (dude is diverse)
Stanton: Finding Nemo; WALL-E
Dafoe: The Boondock Saints; Spider-Man; The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou; Paris, je t'aime
Church: Sideways; Easy A
Strong: RocknRolla; Sherlock Holmes; Kick-Ass; Robin Hood; Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Hinds: The Debt; The Woman in Black
Purefoy: A Knight's Tale