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“John Carter” – Review (SO-SO POSITIVE)

March 11, 2012

“John Carter” is based on the classic Edgar Rice Burroughs books that was the inspiration for many sci-fi epics that include “Star Wars” & “Avatar” (well, I wouldn’t go that far on “Avatar”). So, it made total sense that a feature film adaptation should follow. Pixar director, Andrew Stanton (“Finding Nemo”) makes his live-action debut, like his follow Pixar pal, Brad Bird, does Stanton succeed? More or less to be honest.

The movie begins in 1881, a young Edgar Rice Burroughs’s (Darryl Saraba) learns of the sudden death of his uncle, a war-weary former military captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch). Carter leaves everything to your Edgar including an important journal, which explains what has happened to John. 12 years before the sudden demise, John is inexplicably transported to Mars, or to the natives Barsoom as the rightful name of the planet. John 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.

Let me first throw some credit to this movie, because obviously many critics are split on this film. I liked the movie as a whole, it was a nice throw back to 70’s/80’s sci-fi epics; “Star Wars”, “Dune”, and “Conan” comes to mind. The visual style is incredible here, you’ve got top of the line visual effects artist at play here, with some fantastic creatures, beautiful landscapes, and amazing ships & cities, it’s really the spitting image of what Burroughs wrote 100 years ago. The actors are committed to these roles 110% of the time. Taylor Kitsch is a great John Carter, rough, mean, and sometimes brutal, yet has the heroism you look for in a man of the people, he’s like an 19th century Han Solo. Lynn Collins is…WOW! Just, WOW, she was an incredible Princess Dejah. Hot & badass! William Dafoe is always a joy to have around in a movie, even if it is just his voice. Plus, you’ve got Mark Strong present as the typical Mark Strong bad guy, which is just fine with me. This was a 3D movie, and I was lucky enough to see this movie in 3D, and for a 3D movie it holds up in the best possible way. The action, the atmosphere, everything looks gorgeous through the 3D enhancement. To me it was the first BEST 3D experience of the year.

I’m sure many people are going to walk away from this movie saying it resembles too much of “Star Wars”, well people less we forget, [George] Lucas admitted he took some ideas from John Carter of Mars, so lets pace ourselves here. The story wasn’t bad, for the most part I followed what was going on; two sides are against each other and vie for power of the planet. Red good, Blue bad, or is it the other way around? Sorry, but the two sides against one another look too much a like it became to confusing to follow. I guess if the movie suffered anything it was the structure was too convoluted. There was just too much going on for it’s own good, with too many things introduced and never explained. For instance, there’s a moment in the beginning where Princess Dejah is introducing a weapon she and the science academy have been developing, something that could ‘change the war forever’, and a spy sabotages it right in front of their eyes, and it’s never brought up again! What??? I was wondering if they were ever gonna bring that up in the movie, nope never again. Sooooo what was the point of that scene? There are a few plot holes too, one that I think will bother many is the science behind how John Carter travels between Earth & Mars and doesn’t end up a skeleton, you’ll see what I mean, I don’t wanna spoil anything.

“John Carter” is chalk full of a ton of pulpy entertainment, gusto visuals, and committed performances, but the contrived story isn’t helping it much. I didn’t hate the movie, and I don’t think it was necessarily unoriginal, I just wish it was put together better, the pacing was uneven and needed work in the script structure department badly. But, the movie is watchable, and it truly is the first Blockbuster action flick of the year, but will it be the first financially successful one? That remains to be seen.

MOVIE GRADE: C

3D GRADE: A-

 OVERALL GRADE: B-

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