Movie review: John Carter
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Run Time: 2 hours 12 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Dominic West, Ciaran Hinds, James Purefoy, William Dafoe, Thomas Haden Church, Bryan Cranston, Samantha Morton
Directed by Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL-E)
In Disney's John Carter, you will see what looks to be a bevy of rip-offs from movies like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Avatar, The Matrix, Stargate, Star Trek, Gladiator, Spaceballs, and many more. Interestingly, John Carter doesn't rip them off at all, if you consider that the source material was written well before any of these films were even contemplated - 1912 to be exact. This film marks the characters first film appearance, 100 years after first appearing in print, created by the legendary Edgar Rice Burroughs, who is best known for having created Tarzan.
Most people won't be aware of this history, which is why the film fails to stand out in any discernible way. To a modern audience, it is a complete amalgam of things we've already seen, countless times, but this seeming lack of originality is only the tip of the Martian iceberg as to what is wrong with the film.
The character is a Civil War captain who is transported to Mars, a planet that is known as "Barsoom" to the locals. Upon arriving, John Carter learns that he has unique powers on this new planet, giving him super-human strength and the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound (if this reminds you of Superman, you would be right, as this is another major character influenced by Burroughs' John Carter).
The planet of Mars is locked in a deadly war itself between two clans of humans, the peaceful warriors of Helium, and the war-mongering Zodangas (think Klingons). A magical group of warlocks are pulling the strings of the conflict, attempting to orchestrate the complete annihilation of both races. Then there are the Tharks, an alien race with four arms, that are caught in the middle. The destruction is well on its way, that is until John Carter shows up as the wild card.
The movie is brought to us in 3D and will also be shown in IMAX, but John Carter is strangely devoid of any real thrills. The alien Thark race looks great, but most every action scene is cartoonish, especially the ones containing John Carter himself. This could be due to director Andrew Stanton, who is taking his first stab at live action. But with a famously bloated budget, it seems to have been wasted on loud, messy sequences that never seem to engage the audience.
John Carter himself is played by Taylor Kitsch, and is perhaps the worst leading action man in recent memory. He is opposite Lynn Collins who is overly-serious in the role of the strong-minded princess. It was interesting to see that HBO's Rome alumni Ciaran Hinds (Caesar) and James Purefoy (Marc Antony) appear as warriors on the same side of the battle.
A movie like Citizen Kane is referred to as the "best" movie of all time largely because it was the first to do so many things that became Hollywood normalcy in years to follow. Many younger movie-goers who watch Citizen Kane today without knowing its importance, are usually disappointed.
I may be the only critic to compare Citizen Kane with John Carter, but there are similarities. John Carter is a tale that should hold importance due to the major influence it has had on the entire science fiction and fantasy genres. But seen in 2012, on the tail end of all of the other movies and TV shows that it has inspired, John Carter is a dinosaur, a Commodore 64 existing in a world full of iPads.
Opens locally Friday, March 9th, 2012
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