John Carter (2012) – Netflix Review

Out of this world or lost in space?

Director: Andrew Stanton
Availability: Netflix, DVD
Cast: Taylor Kitsch, Dominic West, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe

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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.

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Wowsers!!!

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.

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Lily Allen has a small but important role

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.

5/10

The Screenkicker Quality Index (SQI)

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30 comments

  1. Good review Mikey. A lot of people had a problem with this movie, but you know what? I had a pretty good time with it, even though I realized it was practically like any other sci-fi flick out there.

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  2. “‘Pump Up the Volume’ is a song and the only single by British recording act MARRS. Recorded and released in 1987, it was a number-one hit in many countries and is sometimes regarded as a significant milestone in the development of British house music and music sampling.”

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  3. Y’know, I actually didn’t think this was atrocious, though not great either. Maybe I was expecting an absolutely horrendous movie, but apart form the terrible choice of leading actor, the story is pretty engaging. I agree though that it could’ve been A LOT better given the source material that inspires a lot of sci-fi greats.

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  4. I agree that there were moments that the character was definitely a sleeper but the movie was quite fun and has some thematic elements that took me back to a child. Yeah, what was up with the constant captures? Great review!

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  5. Oh I couldn’t disagree with the reviewer and most of the commenters more!! I know this thread is old, but it just came out on Netflix. I didn’t even know it existed before this.

    The movie John Carter of Mars was such a pleasant surprise. And here it was made almost 7 years ago. Your comments help me to understand a bit why it did so poorly in the theatre when it came out. (Stanton must have been so disappointed.) I’ll bet after it’s Netflix airing it finds a new following. If Netflix still allowed reviews, my message to you would be one.) What a total romp! So many aspects so well done. I can’t remember enjoying a movie that much since I was surprised by the Matrix, (which is of course a very different movie.) The buildings! The landscape! The creatures! (Woola the “dog” is a favorite). The machines (especially the light-flyers). The way the two Tarks literally lock horns. The opening cut-scenes (and use of music!) depicting the stubborness of Carter in the face of the attempted conscription by the US Cavalry (courtesy of Bryan Cranston no less). The moving city! The Therns! The way Kantos Kahn has to take himself hostage to get Carter out of danger. The way we as viewers get to hug John Carter vicariously through Ned at the end. And the quotes**

    The parallels between Carter’s world on earth and his world on Mars, of which there are many, were a sturdy structure, though barely noticed through the magnificent foreground aspects of the story. Right after the ending I went to my son raved about it. He said he thinks the guy that wrote the screenplay and directed JC of Mars, Andrew Stanton, is going to be making Dune. If so, that’s going to be one terrific film. Michael Giacchino’s music, though not having memorable melodies, hits all the right dramatic notes, from war to wonder to wistful romanticism (with an interesting final chord emphasizing the third (!). …plus the wordless chorus of wonder during the first part of the end titles. Had this movie been viewed on its own merits, with the viewer having no knowledge of the book(s), and given no warning of what they were about to see, I say it would have become every bit the phenomenon that Star Wars was, with greater merit.

    Now who will pledge their metal to mine?!!!

    **
    Leave a Thark his head and one hand and he may yet conquer!
    Take up a cause, fall in love, write a book.
    Ah, Zodanga, where the men are as limited as the menu, and the women are as hard as the beds.
    You must aim past the horizon, Sab Than.
    You are the stones, the sand!

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