" Though JOHN CARTER boasts a final act that is both exciting and well-executed, the question is did it take 100 minutes too long to get there? It's enjoyable but not worth $10 a pop unless you're a fan of the Edgar Rice Burrough's book series. You'll be fine to wait for this on Netflix or Redbox. "
Director: Andrew Stanton
Studio: Walt Disney
Tagline: Lost in Our World. Found in Another.
Release Date: March 9, 2012
Based on the classic novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, JOHN CARTER tells the story of war-weary, 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. A theatrical representation of the first epic science fiction series ensues.MY TAKE
“So what’d YOU think?”
It’s a question I was asked no fewer than five times after viewing John Carter, and surprisingly it’s not an easy question to answer. It’s a film that most movie-goers will either love or hate, yet my opinion is firmly implanted somewhere in the middle.
The best way for me to describe the “John Carter experience” is to compare it to a 2 hour and 15 minute road trip. The trip starts off with intrigue and excitement, jumping from 1881 New York to 1868 Fort Grant, Arizona to a futuristic, non-descript Martian landscape, and then finally back to where our adventure began. It’s an odd indulgence of genre-mixing, but it makes for an interesting premise.
The problem, as with so many road trips, is that while there’s some nice scenery along the way, the newness begins to evaporate and tedium sets in. As the film bogs down in an attempt to explain itself, it seems to have little focus, and I couldn’t help but to look around for the exit ramp, asking, “Are we there yet?” Thankfully, the final act brings the film back to life and sends us home with a 30-minute thrill ride. Whether or not that’s enough to excuse the meandering of the previous 100 minutes is up to the viewer.
Considering the production budget for this bubba was greater than $250 million, I expected to see more of that expenditure on screen. In other words, give me more action and special effects and less clunky dialogue between our hero and his Martian counterparts. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for great storytelling. However, that means lulls in the action should be filled with actual story or character development. Instead, they’re mostly supplemented with Taylor Kitsch’s one-sentence-at-a-time breathy line deliveries. Sure, he does a good impersonation of the “Josh Brolin squint,” but his monotone performance prevents him from commanding the audience’s undivided attention and loyalty.
There’s no emotional attachment with his or any other character. I really have no idea why I was supposed to root against the “bad guys” other than we’re manipulated to believe they’re bad, and I was given no reason to root for the 12-foot tall green Martians. Honestly, they didn’t seem to be all that virtuous, based on Tars Tarkas’ barbaric treatment of his daughter.
Plus, if you’re going to spend $250 million then please create a picturesque world that makes me exclaim, “Wow, now that’s what Mars is supposed to look like!” rather than, “So they filmed this in Utah, huh?” We’re not given anything more spectacular to look at that what we’ve seen with circa 1977 Tatooine.
One other problem with the film is that it does not intimately know its demographic. It’s definitely not for young children, despite the Disney association. The snoring 10-year-old to my right and the awkwardly inappropriate usage of a single G-d**n attest to that. But if you’re not going the “kid’s movie” route then you have to give me aliens that are a little more menacing than Jar Jar Binks.
I’ll give John Carter credit – it’s obvious that the source material served as inspiration for George Lucas, James Cameron, and others within the sci-fi genre. And while overall this is a road trip that I enjoyed; it’s not necessarily an experience I’d care to relive. Now that the introductions are out of the way, I have hope a sequel would be an improvement. But as for this film, there’s a whole lot of bacon but too little sizzle.
ODDS & ENDS
- “A Princess of Mars” Kindle book is available for free on Amazon for a limited time.
- Pre-production began in 2004 with Robert Rodriguez signed on as director. When Rodriguez resigned from the Directors’ Guild of America (DGA), Paramount was forced to replace him due to the studio’s long-standing arrangement with the DGA in which only the organization’s members may direct Paramount films.
- The first “John Carter” story by Edgar Rice Burrows made its debut in 1912 in a magazine serial. Thus, this film marks the 100th anniversary of the character’s first appearance.
- Taylor Kitsch is in X-Men Origins: Wolverine with Hugh Jackman who is in The Prestige with Christian Bale who is in The Dark Knight Rises with Brett Cullen who is in The Young Riders with Josh Brolin who is in Hollow Man with Kevin Bacon.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, JOHN CARTER will surprise discerning parents everywhere by dropping a G-d**n within the film's first 10 minutes. Very surprising and out-of-place, especially for a film with the "Disney" name stamped on it. A few "h*lls" and "d**ns" are sprinkled throughout. Lynn Collins wears somewhat provocative clothing; particularly a wedding outfit that she admits is somewhat vulgar. The violence is mostly bloodless. Leave the wee ones at home; this is more appropriate for teens and above.