John Carter (2012)

John Carter (2012)

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The dirty three dozen?
The dirty three dozen?

Twitter Plot Summary: John Carter is transported from Earth to Mars and has a bit of an adventure. Bless him.

Five Point Summary:

1. Confederate-era Walter White.
2. That dog/lizard thing is fun.
3. He’s so delightfully evil!
4. Fighting and derring-do – pulp sci-fi style.
5. Mark Strong wins the award for “baldest man” in this film.

It would be a a gross understatement to say that John Carter didn’t perform well at the box office. Mired with a poor marketing campaign, the title being shortened so as to, apparently, appeal to a wide, non-science fiction audience, it did not come anywhere close to recouping its bloated production costs.

Despite its poor box office performance it’s not a bad film. It may not work on as many levels as intended, but it proves to be an entertaining science fiction adventure. Spawned from the pulp science fiction novel A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Confederate soldier John Carter

is transported from Virginia to the dusty plains of Barsoom, aka the planet Mars. There he becomes a figurehead for the good fight against the nefarious (and bald) Mark Strong who wants to see Helium crumble.

Carter is practically a superhuman in the Martian atmosphere, capable of jumping huge distances and slinging heavy objects as if they were made of paper. Barsoom is filled with an array of colourful characters, from the human-like residents of Helium and Zodanga to the taller, more alien Tharks and the dog-lizard creature Woola, who seems to be the most entertaining character of them all. Some gusto is provided by Dominic West as the villainous Sab Than, but it’s still Woola who proves to be the most relatable and enjoyable presence.

"Sorry, what is this film about again?"
“Sorry, what is this film about again?”

With the performances in mind, it’s far too reliant on CGI, and whilst it looks impressive (and looks like a lot of money has been spent on it) it is easy to tell when the actors have been placed against a green screen and conjures up memories of George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels. The casting choices are solid, but something doesn’t sit right. Taylor Kitsch has been known to put in some stellar performances in the past, yet here he feels oddly subdued. The cast is full of big names who aren’t given enough material to do it justice, although it’s clear they enjoyed their work on the production.

At least everything has a good sense of production value – the money spent is on screen for all to see. With a few conceits for a 3D cinema experience aside, the action is competently handled by Andrew Stanton, even if at times he has the urge to pan all the way out in order to see events playing out in miniature, minimising the emotional connection between the characters and the audience.

The other point to note is that if you’ve seen the camp 1980 movie Flash Gordon then you’ve effectively seen tis plot before, albeit on a much smaller budget in that case. As Andrew Stanton’s first live action film after a string of hit animated films with Pixar, it’s a shame that John Carter did not perform to expectations as the man is clearly able to tell a good story. Sadly in this case the stars didn’t align and John Carter will be discussed in similar tones to the likes of Waterworld, The Lone Ranger and, probably, Battlefield Earth.

Score: 3/5

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