Don’t worry people, he’s not John Carter of Mars, he’s just regular old John Carter of Earth. Lame.
The film tells the story of warweary, former military captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), who is inexplicably transported to Mars where he becomes reluctantly embroiled in a conflict of epic proportions amongst the inhabitants of the planet, including Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) and the captivating Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins). In a world on the brink of collapse, Carter rediscovers his humanity when he realizes that the survival of Barsoom and its people rests in his hands.
I have to admit that before I went to see this flick I was not that hyped up as much as others were. The trailers didn’t do much to excite me, I haven’t read any of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ pieces of work, and this just looked like the sci-fi version of ‘Prince of Persia’. Thankfully though, my expectations were met with some high glee that I was not expecting at all.
Director Andrew Stanton does a great job with his first live-action feature because he not only keeps to what made this story so damn influential in the first place, but also makes it work for people who aren’t that familiar with either. The film was made for over 250 million dollars and I can tell that every single piece of that moolah went right to the production design because this flick made Mars look like a pretty cool place to be rather than just a desolate planet. There are these cool solar-sailing ships that are constantly moving in and out of this flick and look really neat, the creature designs look very realistic as if John Carter is actually talking to a bunch of these four-handed aliens, the costumes are a slight mixture of old Rome-looking fashion mixed with some ‘Star Wars’ looks and they look pretty cool as well, and just about every bit of special effects work and seem like Stanton really put his heart and soul into getting us into this world of Mars.
Stanton also does a very good job at keeping this film fun, entertaining, and just exactly what a sci-fi blockbuster should be, epic. In the past couple of years the bar for sci-fi blockbusters have been set pretty high but I think that this one could very easily sit right up there close to the top because it doesn’t try to do much that isn’t different from what we’ve seen before, but with what they do do, it’s a whole lot of fun. There’s constant guns shooting, swords clanging against one another, fist fights happening out of nowhere, aerial battles in those cool solar-sailing ships, a very extreme arena scene where John Carter takes on two huge gorillas, and just a whole bunch of other sci-fi goodness that will surely make anyone, especially sci-fi lovers, just feel a total energy burst in their system. Basically, it’s a film that has fun with everything it’s given with its huge plot and it also has a nice sense of humor to work around with too which is always a plus in any flick.
The problem that this flick hits is that on the story front, there seems to be a little too much going on here for people to grasp onto right away. As soon as John Carter lands right on Mars, we are stuck with the conflicts between the warring races, the new planet and it’s technology, the princess being married to someone she doesn’t want to be married to, the alien species, and the whole fact that John Carter is trying to find a way back home to Earth. It’s definitely a lot to take in right off the bat and even when we find out what the master plan behind all of this conflict is, we are kind of left with that feeling of “we don’t know what the hell he’s talking about”.
When it comes to holding a film on his own, Taylor Kitsch seems like he can do it, but for some odd reason, he’s just not all that special here as John Carter. I will give Kitsch the benefit of the doubt and say that there are some scenes where he displays some wit and charm and looks very fit and in-shape for the role of this ruthless warrior that the film soon makes him out to be, however, he came across as wooden sometimes. I don’t know if it was Kitsch’s fault or if it was just the writing’s problems, but there were times where he just seemed like he was reading his lines with the flattest delivery I have ever heard and I was wondering if he was supposed to do this to show that he’s confused about what’s going on, or if Kitsch is pretty lame as an actor. The guy is appearing in two more big flicks this year so I guess those ones will answer my question but he’s pretty empty here as John Carter and that’s one of my biggest gripes with this flick.
As for the rest of the cast, they’re all pretty good too. Lynn Collins is very stunning but also pretty smart, hip, and sexy as Carter’s main love interest, Dejah Thoris, a new and cool princess that can actually stick up for herself rather than just standing there and let her boy do all of the ass-kicking; Mark Strong is good as Matai Shang, aka the evil angel that shows up and has complete control over anybody he wants to have it over; and Thomas Haden Church, Willem Dafoe, and Samantha Morton all do very good jobs as the CGI-covered Tharks and even though we can’t see their faces, we can still tell that they are putting every ounce of their skills into these performances, which also helps the great-looking animation of these characters too.
Consensus: John Carter has certain problems with its central performance from Kitsch and its over-abundance on plot, but what does work is the fact that Andrew Stanton has done nothing here but make a beautiful and stunning flick with a lot action, excitement, humor, and everything else that makes a sci-fi blockbuster work. I hope it gets all of its money back but that seems pretty far-fetched right now.