Movie Review: John Carter

John Carter (2012)
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe, Dominic West, Mark Strong
Directed By: Andrew Stanton

Disney’s John Carter (which should have an “of Mars” after it) is a good film. It’s not as great as it should be, but not nearly as bad as some of the online critics would have you believe. Of course, the behind the scenes aspects of the film of overshadowed the actual plot (it cost Disney $250 million to make), but it’s still a solid effort from Andrew Stanton, his first live-action gig after helming such Pixar classics like Finding Nemo and Wall-E.

An adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs pulp novel A Princess Of Mars, the film tells he story of John Carter (Kitsch, a confederate soldier who is transported to Mars after hiding out in a cave full of gold from some Apaches.  While on the red planet, he learns that he can leap incredible distances and lift things he normally couldn’t on Earth, all due to his bone density and the lesser gravitational pull on Mars. He also meets the Tharks, a giant race of four-armed, green aliens with tusks who have a much more savage way of dealing with their peoples and loved ones.  Tars Tarkas (voiced and motion captured by Willem Dafoe), their leader (or “Jeddak”) takes Carter in, believing he will help them fight against the “red people”.

Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris and Kitsch as John Carter

These “red people” include Dejah Thoris, the princess of the city of Helium. Played by Lynn Collins, Thoris is one of the best things about the movie, and absolutely steals the show from Kitsch and Dominic West, who plays Sab Than, the leader of a rival group of red men of Mars. While the film unfortunately doesn’t focus nearly enough on the relationship between Carter and Thoris, Collins definitely gives it her all, especially in the action scenes, which are the standouts of the film. The arena scene that’s been all over the place is a highlight, but I personally enjoyed Carter’s battle with an entire army of savage Tharks more. Intercut with John Carter’s memories of his slain wife and daughter, the scene was a great mix of emotional drama and action, and seeing Carter hack his way through these strange creatures was really cool.

While the action may be great, unfortunately the movie kind of grinds to a halt whenever we need to get any exposition out. Do we really need to know exactly HOW John Carter got to Mars? I personally don’t think so, especially if that scene could’ve been put to better use showing more of Carter and Thoris’ growing relationship. There’s really only a handful of scenes that make you believe that they are falling in love with one another, and perhaps if there were a few more of them you would buy their marriage at the end of the film a little more.

Another hiccup is the dialogue in the film. There’s simply too much of the “barsoom” (the name of Mars to the people who live there) language in the film, almost to the point where you’re amazed that the actors could say the lines without laughing. Granted, with Tars Tarkas says it you believe, because he’s a giant 9-foot-tall green alien, but whenever Dejah Thoris tries to explain how the “nine rays can be used to save the city of Helium” your eyes do kind of start to glaze over.

“A” for effort guys

Even with its flaws though, I still enjoyed John Carter. A fun action flick that unfortunately probably won’t get a sequel, even though it has the potential for a great one, especially now that the introductions are out of the way. Disney’s marketing for this film was pretty much non-existent, which is a shame considering how much time and effort it seemed Andrew Stanton put into trying to make the film work. In many ways, this may be our generation’s Tron, and we might get a sequel 25 years later. After thinking it over, the positives I have with the film outweigh the negatives, so while not a perfect film, John Carter is still a good ride, even if the exposition and plotting makes you shake your head sometimes.

3 “Saks” out of 5

Posted on March 11, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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