Watch The Extended White Apes Arena Scene From JOHN CARTER

See how Andrew Stanton approaches his action with clean and classical compositions. (Devin Faraci not actually in the clip)

After seeing John Carter last week I told Drew McWeeny, "I think we're going to overdefend this one." I don't mean that John Carter isn't worthy of defense, but simply that the film is so uneven I fear many will simply write it off, unable to see the truly magnificent things going on. John Carter doesn't fit easily into the bi-polar it sucks/it rocks attitude of the internet. And because so many will simply slam the film, some of us are going to be standing firm as defenders.

Maybe this clip (and the footage reel after it) can give you some idea of why I find John Carter worth defending. What really struck me about the film is the fact that director Andrew Stanton shoots his action very cleanly, with a strong sense of situational geography and classical composition. Stanton doesn't shoot like he's directing a scene full of CG stuff, he shoots as if all the elements are present. And he shoots steadily, cuts smartly and coherently. There's a chase on flying bikes (of which you see a smidge in the reel after the clip) where Stanton approaches the photography as if he were on a bike with the actors. Many of the POV shots actually have the front end of the bike in them, anchoring the camera to a physical object and not having it be an invisible, endlessly agile insect flitting about in a way that no physical camera can do. 

This isn't the only thing I like about John Carter, but it's a big part of it. Stanton isn't trying to make an epic in the modern action mold, he's looking back to Lawrence of Arabia (with Michael Giacchino leaning heavily on Maurice Jarre at points). John Carter is of a kind with War Horse, another movie that embraces modern techniques in service of a very old fashioned visual style. 

By the way, this clip stops before the best part of the scene. I really like how Carter dispatches the second white ape.

Thanks to Brian Henne for the link.