John Carter (2012)

John Carter
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Science fiction violence

Director: Andrew Stanton
Actors: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe, Mark Strong, Dominic West, Ciaran Hinds, Bryan Cranston, James Purefoy, Thomas Haden Church, Samantha Morton, Daryl Sabara, Polly Walker

Transplanted to Mars, a Civil War vet discovers a lush planet inhabited by 12-foot tall barbarians. Finding himself a prisoner of these creatures, he escapes, only to encounter a princess who is in desperate need of a savior.

DVD
Status: QuickPick
Run time: 130mins
Origin: UNITED STATES
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Barsoom brawl
by Simon Miraudo,

It's hard to imagine a time in which Star Wars wasn't such a megalathon (a word I have invented to encapsulate the incomparable hugeness of its influence and cultural infiltration; nothing in the English language conveys it properly, does it?). For those of us born after the release of Return of the Jedi, we have known no world in which George Lucas' space saga isn't a universal touchstone and reference point. Still, I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to see A New Hope (although it wasn't actually called that at the time) in 1977, without the knowledge there would be sequels, and - ahem - prequels, to follow. Would I have scoffed at the silly planet and character names? Would the sometimes unconvincing special effects distract me? Would Darth Vader - unbeknownst to me that he ...

It's hard to imagine a time in which Star Wars wasn't such a megalathon (a word I have invented to encapsulate the incomparable hugeness of its influence and cultural infiltration; nothing in the English language conveys it properly, does it?). For those of us born after the release of Return of the Jedi, we have known no world in which George Lucas' space saga isn't a universal touchstone and reference point. Still, I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to see A New Hope (although it wasn't actually called that at the time) in 1977, without the knowledge there would be sequels, and - ahem - prequels, to follow. Would I have scoffed at the silly planet and character names? Would the sometimes unconvincing special effects distract me? Would Darth Vader - unbeknownst to me that he had fathered Luke and Leia - be a satisfying antagonist, or would he just be another big ol' baddie with an undefined agenda to rule the cosmos?

These are, more or less, the issues that have plagued the ambitious franchise-building features released in its wake. James Cameron's Avatar - which stuck to some trite storytelling tropes, but felt ferocious and immersive - pulled it off. Green Lantern is a recent example of a failed attempt. Andrew Stanton's John Carter - an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' 100-year-old Barsoom series - fares only a little better than that misfire. As I watched Pixar alum Stanton's live-action debut, admittedly, not exactly engrossed by his tale of battling armies on the surface of Mars, I thought of Luke Skywalker's plight and asked those aforementioned questions of myself. The truth is, I think I would have loved Star Wars even without a familiarity of Yoda, Lando Calrissian, and the rest of the gang. The storytelling is tight; the performances are charming; the action is electrifying; the experience is fun. Which brings us to the matter at hand.

John Carter, for all of its pricey spectacle, is a mostly impenetrable picture unlikely to please children nor adults. Stanton's previous two projects - Finding Nemo and WALL-E - proved he could straddle that line expertly, transporting audiences to an entirely alien environment and entertaining young and old alike. This film tells of two human-ish tribes at war on Mars (or, as they call it, Barsoom). When the leader of the Zodanga tribe, Sab Than, (Dominic West) is gifted with a powerful ray by the planet's omnipotent watcher (Mark Strong), he begins to wipe out the people of Helium indiscriminately, much to the chagrin of their princess Dejah (Lynn Collins). Meanwhile, the CGI Martians of Thark keep to themselves, betting on which army will ultimately prove victorious, but hoping they'll just wipe one another out. If you're keeping up, I commend you.

Over on Earth - circa 1870 -  a gruff Virginian treasure-seeker by the name of John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) flees Confederate soldiers and winds up accidentally transported to Barsoom. He discovers the difference in gravity on the red planet allows him to leap great distances and also affords him super-strength. Though he's first treated like an animal by the Tharks and their leader Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe), his unparalleled powers and compassion sees him recruited by Dejah to help her end the conflict.

The script, penned by Stanton, Mark Andrews, and author Michael Chabon, does not ably construct this universe (a framing device involving a young Edgar Rice Burroughs pays off in the end, but only further confuses us in the beginning). So much time is spent explaining the lay of the land, little is left to craft memorable characters, or involve us in the struggle, or show us why it might be a bad thing for Sab Than to rule Barsoom (for all the to-ing and fro-ing we do across the planet, we don't much get to see how the place actually works, or what the people living there even do. See also: Thor). Kitsch is likable as a reluctant hero, and Collins works her Princess Leia shtick nicely, but the antagonists are a non-entity.

However, once all the confusion regarding names and locations in the first half fades away, we are treated to a series of fairly thrilling action sequences. The film's extravagant $250 million budget can be seen on the screen in the mostly sumptuous special effects. Who knows? Perhaps the sequel - if we ever get there - will fill in the gaps and expand on John Carter's legend now all the expositional heavy-lifting has been done. But is that an acceptable excuse for an epic to be this underwhelming?

2.5/5

Check out Simon's other reviews here.

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Member Reviews (63)

Leigh Payne
says
Loved it, loved it, loved it! Need more of the lead actor Taylor Kitsch!
Posted Monday, 3 March 2014 See my other reviews
Similar to another reviewer, it tries hard and is well done, but I just struggled to get engaged. It also felt it was a bit like a take off of Star Wars and Avatar without a sufficient back plot.
Posted Tuesday, 11 February 2014 See my other reviews
Barb
says
Couldn't get into it
Posted Wednesday, 5 February 2014 See my other reviews
Autumn Sadie
says
WOW. Excellent film! "John Carter" had such a beautiful story, with likeable characters and a wonderful score. I believe there was a lot of cgi, but it was woven in so well - the landscape scenes were majestic. I didn't want the film to end. A joy to watch! 5 stars.
Posted Saturday, 3 August 2013 See my other reviews
caseyjo59
says
Great movie.True to the book version. It was wonderful seeing all the characters being brought to life from the book. Excellent film
Posted Friday, 17 May 2013 See my other reviews
MADS
says
Great Family Entertainment and a good if not unbeilevable story.
Posted Tuesday, 14 May 2013 See my other reviews
Gil
says
You get the feeling that it tries very very hard, but it never quite works as an interesting movie.
Posted Thursday, 25 April 2013 See my other reviews
Huguette
says
Worse movie ever
Posted Tuesday, 23 April 2013 See my other reviews
Lee
says
Me and my whole family ( teenage kids) really enjoyed this.
Posted Friday, 12 April 2013 See my other reviews
Louise
says
good movie. one whole family can watch. was better than i thought it was going to be.
Posted Saturday, 9 March 2013 See my other reviews
David Williams
says
Worth a look
Posted Saturday, 9 March 2013 See my other reviews
Bianca
says
So good I watched it a second time
Posted Sunday, 24 February 2013 See my other reviews
Tim
says
A mix of star wars and avatar. Worth a look if you like adventure. Doesn't go down the lame spiritual path that avatar did. Based on a book written 100 years ago, so for those that say this is a copy of everything else then you may in fact be looking at the story that started it all. Awesome ending.
Posted Friday, 22 February 2013 See my other reviews
Jen Midgley
says
This movie started off a little slowly but Woosh! you were swept into another world along with John Carter. Great matrix effects, romance & drama made this a really enjoyable film to watch with the kids.
Posted Monday, 11 February 2013 See my other reviews
nick
says
no wonder this flopped. Its ludicrous. Terrible dialogue. The end bit is OK and at least has a little emotion. Still the dog/lizard thing is cool and the girl is hot.
Posted Saturday, 26 January 2013 See my other reviews
A classic high fantasy. Great effects, awesome story and good acting. I just wish there were more films of Barsoom...
Posted Thursday, 17 January 2013 See my other reviews
Lisa
says
Loved it! Great film once you get it!!
Posted Wednesday, 16 January 2013 See my other reviews
Joseph
says
Why did this movie do so poorly at the box office? I'll tell you why, no marketing, it's simple as that. If Disney had pulled their finger out and given it say the marketing campaign of Avengers or Avatar it would have gotten better returns. This is a fantastic tale in the vein of Star Wars: A New Hope. Maybe if had been made back then it would be a classic now.
Posted Tuesday, 15 January 2013 See my other reviews
Michelle Dalton
says
My husband and I enjoyed John Carter very much although it was not our first time. What an amazing adventure from one plant to another. A believable science fiction story with action, heroine's and hero's, aliens and we are waiting for the next episode as it ends and you just want more!.... Great special effects and strong acting..
Posted Sunday, 13 January 2013 See my other reviews
Georgie
says
Yawn....
Posted Sunday, 13 January 2013 See my other reviews
Cliched and not particularly well acted. Transparent storyline and too drawn-out
Posted Tuesday, 8 January 2013 See my other reviews
Romi
says
A touch touched, really.
Posted Thursday, 13 December 2012 See my other reviews
Good Movie
Posted Tuesday, 11 December 2012 See my other reviews
Rocky
says
What a fantastic movie with great visual affects
Posted Friday, 2 November 2012 See my other reviews
Stuart
says
Quite an enjoyable movie, once it got going. Amazing to think that it is based upon a book that was written 100 years ago. All set up for a sequel at the end. it is what it is!
Posted Tuesday, 30 October 2012 See my other reviews
D.M.
says
I enjoyed this movie - kind of a mix from elements of "Avatar", "Star Wars" and "Monsters and Aliens". It may not be the sort of movie for really young children: there's a kind a sophistication to it and I think that must come from the way the filmmakers have applied the vision of Edgar Rice Burroughs. I really liked all the actors in the film, especially to note the actress who plays the Princess - a solid, strong woman, not one of those ubiquitous blonde 'hollywood' types and 'not' Natalie Portman! The character who steals the show is Woola. Maybe he'll get his own movie, but I reckon Disney already have the toys made (now, is that a dog, or a cane toad??)
Posted Tuesday, 30 October 2012 See my other reviews
hanzee
says
star wars?
Posted Wednesday, 24 October 2012 See my other reviews
Very entertaning loved all the 'creatures'
Posted Monday, 22 October 2012 See my other reviews
kathy
says
really enjoyed this movie, good film for all the family
Posted Thursday, 11 October 2012 See my other reviews
Azz
says
If George Lucas wasn't born or Jake Sully's twin bro didn't die to 'give' his Avatar away, then maybe...just maybe John Carter would get more Stars...
Posted Friday, 5 October 2012 See my other reviews
Vanessa
says
it's obviously a children's movie, but I didnt mind it.
Posted Thursday, 27 September 2012 See my other reviews
Scotchmick
says
I know the reviews said it was bad but if you don't take it too seriously its quite good fun. Why was Mark Strong in it though, his character was about as necessary as Demi Moore's in A Few Good Men, and she actually wanted the trailer closest to the set. Moron.
Posted Friday, 21 September 2012 See my other reviews
Sybil
says
The screen saver was more interesting.
Posted Tuesday, 4 September 2012 See my other reviews
Matthew B.
says
Seemed quite pointless really.
Posted Saturday, 1 September 2012 See my other reviews
Phillip
says
Not bad ,a bit long ,but in my opinion worth 3 stars . Helps to have read the books
Posted Saturday, 1 September 2012 See my other reviews
Bronwyn Henry
says
Not quite my cup of tea. More of a sci fi picture, than a western.
Posted Friday, 31 August 2012 See my other reviews
terrible movie, we couldn't even watch the whole thing. Very disjointed and didn't make sense at all.
Posted Sunday, 26 August 2012 See my other reviews
quite possibly the worst film i have ever bothered to sit through!
Posted Sunday, 26 August 2012 See my other reviews
F
says
Really looking forward to this & was let down. Could have been half an hour shorter & would have been a better movie.
Posted Wednesday, 22 August 2012 See my other reviews
poor and disjointed
Posted Friday, 17 August 2012 See my other reviews
Deb
says
Not as bad as all the reviews it got. Slightly confusing way to order the movie but the end wraps it up nicely. If you like that kind of back and forth scenes like I do, you'll enjoy this one. A little slow at times but overall pretty good.
Posted Tuesday, 14 August 2012 See my other reviews
kimbo
says
Transplanted to Mars, a Civil War vet discovers a lush planet inhabited by 12-foot tall barbarians. Finding himself a prisoner of these creatures, he escapes, only to encounter a princess who is in desperate need of a savior. Falls short of the mark. Dissapointed
Posted Thursday, 9 August 2012 See my other reviews
Marg
says
A good adventure movie with lots of highlights although did get a bit slow at times. A different story with some fun characters and would enjoy seeing a sequel. 3.5
Posted Sunday, 5 August 2012 See my other reviews
jakko
says
Did you read the original Edgar Rice Burroughs "Barsoom" novels? Did you enjoy them? If so, you will almost certainly enjoy this movie. Some departures from the novels, but that is only to be expected for a modern audience, but settle back and enjoy an old-fashioned hero/adventure story. Just don't forget your willing suspension of disbelief.
Posted Friday, 3 August 2012 See my other reviews
Enello
says
I didn't think this deserved the caning it got - yes, it appears to be aimed at a youngish audience but there is penty to like - and, hey - Star Wars had some pretty daggy moments!!
Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 See my other reviews
KDski
says
Great movie!! if you like Sci-fi this is a must. even my freinds and family that arent into Sci-fi realy enjoyed this movie! great story line, and a visual feast! will there be a part two? hope so!
Posted Wednesday, 1 August 2012 See my other reviews
joffa
says
excellent title totally 'my kind of movie' very imaginitive, inventive storyline, creative overall suberbly well thought out. thanks for the great entertainment
Posted Monday, 30 July 2012 See my other reviews
COOL
Posted Friday, 27 July 2012 See my other reviews
Jessica
says
Thought it was a fairly decent movie. Some parts were great and other parts not quite there. The acting of the main characters was a little dismal at times, not quite polished. All in all a good movie to watch.
Posted Friday, 27 July 2012 See my other reviews
JB
says
Great movie. Watched this on Quickflix PPV. Taylor Kitch did a fantastic job of selling this movie. Agree with Anya, definitely reminded me of the Star Wars prequels.
Posted Friday, 27 July 2012 See my other reviews
John
says
I really enjoyed it. It was a solid movie. Taylor Ktisch was good and the lead girl was good.. sometimes she wasnt quite on the mark, but all round it was a really enjoyable movie for an adult. The "kid friendly" elements were not a turn off and didn't detract. Worth the time.
Posted Sunday, 22 July 2012 See my other reviews
GH
says
Fabulous family viewing based on a comic from 1912. Hope to see a sequel. A great mix of old, new and adventure. A must see if you like sci-fi.
Posted Sunday, 22 July 2012 See my other reviews
Otto
says
Star Wars meets Dune, meets Gladiator, meets Avatar. Great scifi adventure.
Posted Saturday, 21 July 2012 See my other reviews
GaryH
says
Yes, it has elements of Star wars and Avatar, but it is a rollicking adventure, with great special effects, tounge planted in cheek and a nice monster dog.
Posted Friday, 20 July 2012 See my other reviews
jtbug
says
Good adventure flick to while away some hours. Approach it with a love of sci-fi and fantasy and the silly story will grab you.
Posted Friday, 20 July 2012 See my other reviews
andrea
says
the movie was average,storyline was okay but it was a bit flat and boring in places.Just when you wanted to turn it off it got better,give it a chance.the ending was great,good twist.
Posted Tuesday, 17 July 2012 See my other reviews
Simon
says
Really enjoyed this movie. Interesting story if you like fantasy, and well put together.
Posted Monday, 16 July 2012 See my other reviews
Goldie78
says
When this movie started I had a horrible feeling it was going to be a bit B movie - but it was Fantastic! Great old school Sci Fi with weird and wonderful characters/creatures. Likeable and engaging cast. Loved it!!!
Posted Monday, 16 July 2012 See my other reviews
Kristina
says
Loved this movie. Much along the lines of Avatar and Star Wars but with its own special twists and deviations. I would recommend this to all viewers
Posted Monday, 9 July 2012 See my other reviews
Kim
says
Great special effects and great movie, entertaining and amusing
Posted Saturday, 7 July 2012 See my other reviews
Julia
says
The whole family really enjoyed this movie, will be disappointed if this is the only one of the intended Trilogy from the novels, which my son is now desperate for me to get!
Posted Friday, 6 July 2012 See my other reviews
Thomas
says
Overall quite an enjoyable movie experience.
Posted Saturday, 24 March 2012 See my other reviews
Anya
says
Saw this at the IMAX in 3D. Very entertaining movie, really enjoyed it. Special effects are fab, reminded me of the newer Star Wars prequels.
Posted Thursday, 22 March 2012 See my other reviews