Directed by Andrew Stanton
Starring Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Willem DaFoe, Thomas Haden Church, Mark Strong, Dominic West, and James Purefoy.
I have no familiarity with the original John Carter of Mars stories. I had no idea they existed until about 10 years ago, when, with the success of The Lord of the Rings, Hollywood started looking at other novel series that had long been deemed unfilmable. Reading more about the franchise, I began to see its influence on other sci-fi properties. And then, my interest was piqued when Disney acquired the rights, and gave the job of adapting it to one of the Pixar brain trust, Andrew Stanton. (Stanton was director of A Bug’s Life, Finding Nemo, and Wall-E). Despite the lackluster trailers, I knew I was going to see this.
John Carter, a veteran of the American Civil War, and tired of all the fighting, seeks to live peacefully, alone, in the Arizona territory looking for a fabled cave of gold. But when he does find the legendary cave, he’s transported to the planet Mars, or as the natives call it, Barsoom. Thanks to Barsoom’s lower gravity, John Carter finds he’s gifted with incredible strength, and the ability to leap great distances. Carter soon gets caught in the middle of a war between two cities: Helium and Zodanga. With Dejah Thoris, a princess of Helium, imploring John Carter to fight for her city, will John Carter embrace this brave new world and become its champion?
What I Liked
Taylor Kitsch, still best known as the guy who played Gambit in the Wolverine movie, has a much better debut as an action leading man here. And this film just looks beautiful. Sweeping vistas, spectacular castles, impresive beasts, and the Tharks…another Martian race, 10-feet tall and with 4 arms. It also helps that the ladies’ costumes invoke the classic style of sci-fi pulp fiction.
What I Didn’t Like
You can tell they really wanted this to be the start of a franchise. With all the factions, things do get confusing at times, and I’m certain the filmmakers were thinking, “We’ll explain that in the next movie!” It does drag a little bit in the middle, too. The plot does seem a little cliched, but, for all I know, John Carter is where the cliches started, so it may have just been faithful.
It’s pretty good, despite what most of the reviews are saying. But it is tough to follow at times.