Before I start this review, I would like to make sure I have the attention of the person(s) responsible for Star Wars – Episodes 1, 2 & 3. Are you out there, are you listening? Good… The massive [correct use of ] technology was required to tell this type of story, it was not a vehicle to show off how much time was put into design and computer processing ability. And “Oh, yeah… let’s try and build crappy story around it.”
John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is a normal earth man, and a civil war vet, who finds himself transported to Mars (known as Barsoom to the inhabitants) and caught between warring factions. As Mars has lower gravity than Earth, John soon finds he has some enhanced abilities. Upon his arrival, he is discovered by Tars Tarkas, (Willem Dafoe) leader of the Tharks. Tharks are a race of tall, bipedal, four armed, green skinned, nomadic beings that inhabit Mars.
Did I forget to mention the Humans, (or at least human-like)? Yeah, there are some of those too. I was scratching my head about this, and then eventually let it go. There are two factions of “humans”, the city of Helium, of whom Deja Thoris (Lynn Collins), is their princess. (Deja is freaking incredible!) Sab Than (Dominic West), is the leader of Zodanga, a traveling city of destruction and the sworn enemy of Helium. Mark Strong makes a very memorable appearance as Matai Shang, a mysterious manipulator with (obviously) his own interests in the outcome of the conflict.
I cannot speak to the books by Edgar Rice Burroughs on which this movie is based, but the following comments are grounded in seeing this movie today, and the films that have come before it. Is John Carter the most imaginative piece of work I’ve ever seen? No. Is space travel/teleportation a unique concept? No. Do we see shades of other scifi, fantasy, love stories and aliens that will look familiar? Most definitely. Then why should I see this movie? As the answer parents give when they don’t want to explain everything, “Because I said so…”
John Carter has some flaws and a few inconsistencies, but I was so involved in enjoying myself, I didn’t care. It is fun, engaging, fanciful and the characters actually make me give a shit about what is happening to them. There will most likely not be any academy award nominations for best dramatic anything, but you will come away having enjoyed that 2hr 19min.
I have purposefully avoided focusing on some of the flaws of the film, because for the type of story and adventure John Carter is, I do not think they are important. Instead of trying to pick them out, sit back, relax and prepare to whisked away. Pay attention to Earth side story as well. It is important background (and just as entertaining as the off planet story) of how John Carter has become, and will become, the man we see on Mars. The Earth story also includes a special appearance by one of my favorites, Bryan Cranston.
3D is still useless. It blends ok in normal scenes, (I still don’t feel like I can reach out and touch the flying ship.) In action sequences is an abysmal and unnecessary distraction. Save the extra $ and see it in 2D.