Action (Sci-Fi, Aliens)
Running Time: 132 minutes
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Mark Strong, Dominic West, Thomas Haden Church, Ciaran Hinds, Bryan Cranston
Directed By: Andrew Stanton
Rating: 5 out of 10
A Civil War vet is accidentally transported to Mars. He must survive the planets hostile inhabitants and try and find a way back to Earth.
So I heard the internet chatter of how bad this movie is and what a colossal bomb it was at the box office. While it did fail horribly at the box office it wasn’t as bad as people made it out to be. Sure it has a multitude of problems which I will discuss in detail but I was entertained by this film if not enamored by it. It suffered the same fate as Waterworld and the Adventures of Pluto Nash….well mainly Waterworld. That fate is a bunch of people hating on the movie before they have even seen it. Waterworld and Adventures of Pluto Nash were not great movies but they were panned unfairly because they did not do well at the box office. I say stop being movie lemmings people and have an original thought once in a while. John Carter is the story of a Civil War vet who gets transported to Mars and finds himself in the middle of a battle for that planets domination. He must chose sides as he tries to figure out a way back to his home planet.
So I will start with what I liked about the film. I felt the story was nothing amazing but it was easy to follow and kept me entertained for the whole film. The alien races on Mars were well thought up and visually impressive. Especially a group of aliens called the Tharks. They were the coolest thing about this film. Their green skin, huge stature, four arms, and nomadic warrior lifestyle were perfect for the harsh conditions on Mars. They reminded me of General Grievous from Star Wars in a way (that is a good thing). The action while coming at sporadic intervals was enough to keep me sated. Futuristic flying ships and lasers are intertwined perfectly with medieval weapons such as spears and swords. I was also invested in John Carter’s struggle of surviving on this strange world and his attempt to make it back to Earth. So as you can see there are a lot of things to enjoy about this movie if you can keep an open mind. Also on a side note, I cannot fault them for trying to go for a film very akin to Star Wars. There are many amazing Sci-Fi stories out there that can share a place beside the holy trilogy.
The acting is average in this film but passable for the most part. John Carter is played by the will he ever get another lead role Taylor Kitsch. 2012 was supposed to be Kitsch’s big year as he starred in two other films (Battleship, Savages.) His films lost well in excess of a hundred million dollars so he will be treated like he has the plague for a long time. He isn’t bad in John Carter but he seems to be trying a little too hard at times. Couple that with the fact he looks like a young Stephen Dorff and excellence does not lean in his favor. He was okay in the role but needs to polish up his delivery in the future. His leading lady, the princess Dejah Thoris is played by Lynn Collins. She is okay but mostly forgettable as a warrior princess. She is beautiful though so she has the look of a princess and that is a good thing. The bad aliens are played by Mark Strong and Dominic West. I like Strong and West as actors but they are cast as these generic evil villains that are rather bland, so it is disappointing performance from them. The voices of the aliens are spot on. Familiar voices such as Willem Dafoe, Samantha Morton, Thomas Haden Church, and many others were well matched to their respective alien characters.
Now to the bad parts of the film and why it ultimately fell short. I am unfamiliar with the book written by Edward Rice Burroughs that this movie is based on so I am speaking purely from a movie standpoint. (as to not offend any Sci-Fi geeks out there.) First off the title of this film is terrible and possibly one of the worst ever. It obviously has no bearing on the movies quality but what were they thinking? The film clearly suffers from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace syndrome. It is trying to cater to way too many key audience demographics and it gets sloppy. Stupid things like dogs that can run hundreds of miles an hour, John Carter can leap huge distances (he should have been able to fly if they were going to go with this angle.), flying space skiffs, and many other strange things seem too childish for a film like this. The action also is rather tame and underwhelming at times for a film of such a high budget (Est. 250 million.) People need high impact when the story is so drawn out and it was never forthcoming. Lastly the story seems jumbled together. Themes of religion, old hatreds, and unexplained alien rituals all seem forced upon the viewer without much thought to the outcome. Because the film had such lack of focus it just didn’t seem right even though it was easy to watch.
Director Andrew Stanton undeniably knows how to shoot animated films (Finding Nemo, Wall E) and he should stick to that format. He is what made this film not succeed in my mind. It is clear he was trying to appeal to the masses. A style which animated films are known for and it was a glaring failure. John Carter bounced around this movie like a super ball and it got harder to watch as the movie went along. Suspect characters, cheesy love story, and underutilized generic bad guys. This film had no clear direction. Big budgets can make up for a lot of things but cannot cover up bad decisions. Stick to animated movies Mr. Stanton where you are at the top of your game.
I cannot recommend this film as it has way too many things going on to be enjoyed properly.
T Factor + If you like Sci-Fi then this could score higher on the rating scale.
T Factor – If you do not like Taylor Kitsch as an actor this could score lower on the rating scale.