Movie Review: John Carter

If you’ve seen the trailer for John Carter and you know the following things:

  • There’s this guy named John Carter (who is always addressed by his full name)
  • He doesn’t wear a lot of clothes
  • and he is constantly fighting something
  • because he’s going to save us.

They minor-ly mention a few of the major plot points in the trailer, but you could say from the trailers the film looks like an overproduced-action-packed-story-sacrificed-romp-in-space.  Should you see it?  If you don’t have enough blind faith to leap to Mars with a 12 dollar movie ticket, read on.

John Carter is an epic science fiction action film based on Edgar Rice Burrough’s Barsoom novel series.  It follows the first interplanetary adventure of John Carter, a Confederate Civil War Veteran (Taylor Kitsch from Friday Night Lights). When he is inadvertently teleported to Mars, Carter becomes involved in a conflict amongst the inhabitants of the planet (cue the princess in need of a savior).  In a world on the brink of collapse, Carter rediscovers his humanity when he realizes that the survival of Mars and its people rests in his hands.

Many of the film makers who created “Star Wars” to “Avatar” to “Superman” were inspired by Burroughs science fiction stories

HITS

  • There is a solid science fiction story.  The film begins with a mystery that ropes in the audience from the start, then it takes off with adventure, romance, humor, and a fight for Mars!
  • The CGI is well done: the locations are lavish, the special effects are stellar, the martian creatures are believable enough martian creatures.
  • Daring feats – Due to his “higher bone density and the planet’s lower gravity,” on Mars, John Carter himself has super human strength and out jumps a normal white guy, a Jedi, a Chinese warrior, and artificial reality agents out to destroy (see chart below).

So, you're telling me that on Mars, I can be a superhero?

John Carter out jumps Mario too. At least until they make: Super Mario Galaxy - Mars

  • Unexpected moments of humor that break up all the action.  I think this was most surprising to me.  I did not expect to laugh as often as I did in this film. I believe that because it is Disney, there is a charm to this movie and an attempt to make it more than an action film or sci-fi flick.
  • The movie is well paced. Even when I would trip up over confusing science fiction plot points, the pacing made me just go with it.
  • The end – it’s tight and twisty, and begs for a sequel (that will never happen).
  • Woola! The lizard-like Lassie dog of Mars who steals more scenes than the Jack Russell Uggie in The Artist.

Space dog!

MISSES

  • The moments of depth in the plot were rushed.  If you are going to have a film with great pacing there has to be a balance within that pacing to give proper attention to the heart of the film, not just the spectacle.
  • Crazy Martian names and terminology.  I know they were on Mars, but there was an overuse that confused more than clarified.  It was worse than trying to figure out elvish in Lord of the Rings.  Barsoom, Jedduk, Tars-Tarkus-Hajus, Thern. Bleh…
  • What isn’t CGI is mediocre acting.  It says something when a CGI lizard dog upstages you.
  • John Carter himself.  While Taylor Kirsch accomplishes a lot in his comic reactions, the depth of the character is forced by the plot.  It’s about his journey and discovery, yet it lacks sincerity and motivation.  John Carter was going through the motions, but went too fast to emotionally connect.

I’ve got this squinty-eyed brooding thing down

THE BOTTOM LINE

This movie was created to be epic, but couldn’t get a jump on the box office.  It’s reported that Disney has lost $200 million with John Carter, and it’s a shame when the cost of quality doesn’t pay off.  It’s certainly good enough to see in the theaters (that is until Hunger Games devours any fighting chance it might‘ve had).  Poor John Carter, he could save Mars, but nothing can save his movie.

Only 4 million people have gotten to see my abs and enormous arm veins on the big screen... what a waste.

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