Out of this world or lost in space?
Director: Andrew Stanton
Availability: Netflix, DVD
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Dominic West, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe
John Carter is a film about a man called John Carter. He somehow travels from 19th century America to Mars. Mars has aliens and people who fight a lot. John helps everyone. The end.
At least that’s how it could have been. Instead we get a convoluted plot. It starts extremely slowly until John gets to Mars. There things pick up when we discover that due to the lower gravity on Mars, John can jump really high. Believe me though, that gets boring fast.
Here’s the problem with John Carter – the story is simplistic and fun yet the movie seems to feel the need to drag everything out. And I mean it drrrraaaaggggss. Every time something interesting takes place it quickly devolves into a pointless argument or conversation. Oh and John Carter gets captured constantly. I counted eight times that the title character gets caught and has to escape.
The cast includes some great actors including Brian Cranston, Ciaran Hinds, and James Purefoy. Taylor Kitsch as big JC is fine in an inoffensive kind of way but the character of Carter is poorly written. We’re supposed to believe this is a man who has no cause to fight for who basically changes his whole outlook when he claps eyes on a sexy martian princess. There’s no subtlety to Carter’s redemption, one minute the guy is a dick, the next he’s a hero.
That leads to major problem with the tone of the film. It doesn’t know if it’s a big silly action movie or if it’s an epic, blockbuster war movie. There’s a scene where John slaughters hundreds of aliens while having a flashback where he’s burying his dead child. Not exactly your typical Disney movie.
Much has been made of John Carter being a massive flop when it was released. Which is sad because there are elements that work. The effects are mostly good, it’s got a great soundtrack, and it’s got a nice little ending. That’s about it though, it’s a mediocre misfire of a movie that’s overlong with poor characters and a forgettable storyline. It could have been a great campy Flash Gordon romp but instead it’s a lot like the real Mars – cold, barren, and not somewhere you’d want to spend to much time.