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;'John Carter'

A film directed by Andrew Stanton Loosely based on the character by Edgar Rice Burroughs

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The Coming of "Virginia"....ahem....John Carter On Mars!

  • Mar 10, 2012
Perhaps I should have revisited Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “A Princess of Mars”, the first novel that featured his character John Carter before I saw this film. 2012‘s “John Carter“ is very loosely based on that first novel and the first live action film by Andrew Stanton who made his directorial debut with Pixar‘s “Finding Nemo“. Burroughs’ creations are indeed a great work of pulp; and his greatest creation may indeed be “John Carter” (who first appeared in a magazine serial) alongside “Tarzan”. Admittedly, I wasn’t expecting a faithful adaptation of the source material, “John Carter” is entertaining and substitutes the intricacies of the original story into something more commercial and mainstream.

                        Taylor Kitsch as John Carter in ``John Carter.''

Edgar Rice Burroughs is played by Daryl Sabara in a wrap around sequence that is geared to those unfamiliar with the novels. Burroughs is given a journal written by Carter whose tale begins when Carter (Taylor Kitsch) was a civil war veteran who had turned into a prospector. Carter stumbles upon a cave and he is whisked away into the world of Barsoom. Its weaker gravity enables John to jump great distances and he has gained enhanced strength. John stumbles upon a civil war between two tribes of martians and has been captured by green nomads called the Tharks. A beautiful princess called Dejah (sexy Lynn Collins) convinces John to choose a side when the villainous Sab Than (Dominic West) seemed determined to destroy the Helium by any means necessary.

                          White Apes and Taylor Kitsch as John Carter in "John Carter."

                         Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris, Taylor Kitsch as John Carter and Samantha Morton as Sola in "John Carter."

Given the scientific knowledge we now have, director Andrew Stanton opts to bring forth a story that is more focused on fantasy and even magical elements (magic is a science that is merely unexplained after all) rather than developing the world that is called “Barsoom”, known as “Mars” to Earthlings. The film is laid around a plot that deals with the political differences that divide the planet and the struggles that plagues the planet. All of these devices are used in the backdrop, and instead the screenplay co-written by Michael Chabon (won a Pulitzer for “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay“) does emulate the feel of a fantasy adventure. It has a lot of ‘pulp’, some cheese and comic-like elements that I was familiar with.

Sure, the 2012 movie version of “John Carter” is very contrived and shamefully predictable. I mean, the story is every bit as predictable as any that is familiar with elements of fantasy. A stranger from another world effects change in a strange new world. We’ve all seen it before and frankly we’ve seen it better. However, as with “Pixar” talent Brad Bird’s “Mission Impossible 4”, the direction really is the star of the show. Andrew Stanton’s direction never misses a beat and it never loses its momentum in unfolding a story of high adventure. The source material was a product of its generation, and being more advanced in terms of science currently, much of the science fiction elements that made it great during that generation may not be able to stand up to this day. The script and the direction takes the focus off the workings of the science in the original stories, and instead makes the fantastic world of Barsoom or Mars its central focus while keeping the core premise of “A Princess of Mars“ almost intact.

                      Taylor Kitsch as John Carter and Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris in "John Carter."

                     A scene from in "John Carter."

The film does have familiar scenes taken from the source material as I remembered several key scenes while it spins its own twists and turns. Much of the film is a lot of quick escapes, close calls, fighting, chases and narrow escapes, and even some light puzzle solving. The film is all energy and action throughout, all the while immersing the viewer into the world of Barroom. This world is filled with science and magic that dictates its story. Barsoom is a nearly barren and dry planet, and the character designs reflect this quality. The red-skinned humanoid Martians are beautiful and yet their appearances express a kind of frustration because of the planet’s condition. The Tharks reminded me of the Na’vi in “Avatar” for some reason, but these Martians are more grotesque than the blue-skinned counterpart in Cameron’s creation and they use firearms instead of bows and arrows (I think that dog-like creature stole the show). The character designs in “John Carter” were very good; they resembled those ones in epics that had made fantasy what it is today. The flying machines in the film carried characteristics that resembled a dragonfly and yet, they looked very sleek and high-tech. I did see some influences from other films (but I can’t put a finger in them yet). The special effects were real good, although after awhile they did begin to feel redundant as the weaknesses of the script began to show its ugly face.

                         Woola in ``John Carter.''

                        Willem Dafoe as Tars Tarkas and Taylor Kitsch as John Carter in ``John Carter.''

Taylor Kitsch makes for a capable lead, but given the limitations of the script, I really cannot say that he displayed much acting prowess in this film. He did look the part of a stranger in a strange land, and the script was able to add some funny bits that made the film a lot of fun. I mean, “Virginia” was slapstick humor and it was perfectly timed as it also exhibits the language barrier that can occur with aliens. Lynn Collins does almost steal the show as her presence is just filled with that warrior-woman charisma that exudes raw sex appeal. Willem Dafoe plays Tars Tarkas and does a great job in adding dimensions to the CGI creation with his voice acting. Ciaran Hinds and Dominic West play the rulers of the opposing tribes, and they were severely underused. I suppose that one of the weaknesses of the film would be that most of the intricate potentials of the major supporting characters were too cliché; they lacked any depth and I found them uninteresting.

Yes, “John Carter” plays it safe and never does risk anything. It is a formula film meant to entertain, and it does do this task albeit for the wrong reasons. I was also a bit put off with the addition of the Burroughs character, and I felt that it was a cheap play to look clever. It was an unnecessary ruse to get some reaction that overplayed its hand. But, despite the weak and contrived script, the film had a lot of pulp charm that made its experience a pleasant one, although the ‘cheese’ factor surely hurt its enjoyment, and the quality of the last act did not match the tempo of the entire film. It is an experience that channels high adventure and pure fun. I am sure commercial audiences will embrace it with open arms.

Recommended Timidly, a RENTAL first is Advisable. [3 ½ - Out of 5 Stars]

Poster art for "John Carter." Poster art for "John Carter of Mars."

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March 14, 2012
I actually have been wanting to see this, great review.
March 16, 2012
thanks, Alex. The plot was very flimsy but the direction exuded entertainment. I would have rated this a little higher if it didn't fumble the ball with the third act.
March 12, 2012
I think we're still in perfect synch when it comes to movies. I thought Disney really should've broken this first film into installments -- either two or three films -- which could've offset the costs and maybe actually given it a chance to become a full-fledged franchise. As a stand-alone, they just crammed WAY too much content into it for all of it to come into unity. As it stands, it's a great popcorn flick. I had hoped for more, especially given the source material.
March 13, 2012
I agree. I mean, the energy was seemingly drained once it reached the third act, and I was not too happy with the way it wrapped things up. I agree that it was a fun movie, just wasn't at all special.
March 12, 2012
This is one the hubby would like - but not me LOL - I can't seem to get into these types of movies. Your review is wonderful as always!!!!!
March 13, 2012
thanks, Brenda! It is a good movie to see with the family.
March 11, 2012
excellent review as always. I think if you've read the books, watching the film is a whole different experience.
March 11, 2012
This movie is indeed flawed, but I cannot deny that it was immensely entertaining. The only reason why it lost a point or two is that I did not like certain aspects of it, especially how it wrapped things up. I can certainly see why you liked it, Joan, but I can also see John's points as well. I liked it, but it just wasn't the kind of movie I would add to my collection unless it was maybe $ 10.
March 11, 2012
Very diplomatic LOL. Can't wait for the sequel. I wonder if his body ages on Earth and if it ages on Mars.
March 10, 2012
Nice write-up. Most of the reviews have not been favorable and I was waiting for yours to decide if I will wait to get the DVD from the library. I guess I will wait
March 10, 2012
This was decent and it was entertaining in its own way. I just cannot fully recommend it since the plot was just so contrived and elements underdeveloped. It was a little hollow. Thanks, Michael!
More John Carter reviews
review by . July 04, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
I know what you're thinking: John Carter was a freaking nuclear bomb. You know that, and so, like most people you're automatically associating the movie's puny monetary takeback with an especially rotten stench. Frankly, that's being pretty harsh, for one thing; between production, advertising, and every other expense filmmaking tends to incur, some financial whizzes got together and concluded that John Carter wouldn't have broken even without an intake of around $700 million. It's Disney's fault …
review by . March 09, 2012
Edgar Rice Burroughs is famous for literary creations that have inspired countless generations and given birth to numerous film and television projects. You would be hard-pressed to find anybody not familiar with Tarzan, one of Burrough's great series. John Carter of Mars is another one, and at long last has finally made it to the big screen.     The film is based on the first book of eleven, a series that began in 1914 and ran through 1964 when the last book was published posthumously. …
review by . September 28, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
I bought a ticket to another movie, but had to wait an hour, so I thought I would pass time watching John Carter.    As JC began I became swiftly swept up in it, forgetting the other movie entirely, as I was so transported.    If you're like me and like movies such Star Wars, I think you will love this movie. I'm not suggesting that it's better than Star Wars, but I certainly enjoyed it than some Star Wars movies.    Like many movies our …
review by . March 07, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Different planet, same contrived plot points
JOHN CARTER Written by Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon Directed by Andrew Stanton Starring Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Willem Dafoe and Mark Strong   Introduction: Mars - So you name it and think you know it.   In all honesty, there are only two reasons I wanted to see JOHN CARTER. The first was to see the live-action debut from Andrew Stanton, a director who has given me two of my favorite films, FINDING NEMO and WALL-E, and who has established …
review by . March 17, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
George Lucas in his creation of STAR WARS, James Cameron in his creation of AVATAR, the creators of Buck Rogers, the creators of Flash Gordon, and countless other writers and film directors for almost a century owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to Edgar Rice Burroughs and his Barsoom Chronicles (beginning with A PRINCESS OF MARS, first published as a short story under a different title in 1912). Burroughs is best known for creating Tarzan. However, Burroughs dabbled in several different genres, …
review by . March 08, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
'John Carter' 'Two Jews On Film' Are World's Apart On This SciFi 3D Adventure (Video)
            By Joan Alperin Schwartz   Okay, so first I have to say that I loved 'John Carter', the Disney 3D SciFi adventure film directed by Andrew Stanton (WALL-E)...      The plot can seem slightly more complicated than it is...so I'll just give you the main points.       First, there's John Carter (the very handsome, Taylor Kitsch) a post Civil War Veteran who's absolutely …
review by . March 09, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         Like all good space operas, John Carter relinquishes virtually all restraint on common sense and plunges headfirst into pure intergalactic melodrama. In spite of the obvious narrative anchors to reality – feuding tribes, political corruption, romance, advancements in technology – we’re immersed in a world and a time that exists solely in the imagination. Yes, this is in part due to the film’s 3D presentation (which is admittedly …
review by . May 09, 2012
JOHN CARTER: Great Film, But Horribly Mismanaged Property
As one of the internet’s resident scribes on all things movie, I’ll not be the first – nor certainly the last – to lambast the treatment JOHN CARTER received at the box office.  The short version of this sad history is that JOHN CARTER was the perfect popcorn flick that deserved better – better from fans, better from the studio who made the film, and (far, far) better from the critical community that mostly drubbed it a ‘disaster’ for all the wrong …
review by . March 08, 2012
Without the Jeddack’s would there be a Jedi, what would Charlton Heston have worn when crashing on The Planet of the Apes, would Kirk have gotten so much inter-galctic tail if it hadn’t been for this hero created 100 years ago. John Carter is thought to be the inspiration for that and so much more in the science fiction world, so it is understood that fans of the genre have been crying out for the movie to be made. And with the technology to create other worlds, nothing is …
Quick Tip by . April 12, 2012
I finally saw "John Carter" last week and I have to admit that I really enjoyed it. I was excited to see it way back when Disney first started promoting last year. While it isn't necessarily a "great" film, it's definitely not a bad one. I'll review it soon enough.
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About this movie


John Carter is an upcoming 2012 action film featuring John Carter, the heroic protagonist of Edgar Rice Burroughs' 11-volume Barsoom series.[5] The film marks the centennial of the character's first appearance in 1912.

Former Confederate captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is mysteriously transported to Mars ("Barsoom") where he becomes part of a conflict between the various nations of the planet, whose leaders include Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) and Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins). Carter takes it upon himself to save Barsoom and its people from a growing threat.[5][6]

The film is the live-action debut of director/writer Andrew Stanton and is co-written by Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon. It is produced by Jim Morris, Colin Wilson, and Lindsey Collins, and scored by Michael Giacchino.[1][7][8]

Walt Disney Pictures is distributing the film; it will be released in the United States on March 9, 2012.[9][10][11] Filming began in November 2009 and principal photography spanned from January 2010 to July 2010.[12][13] This project marks the first time that Andrew Stanton has worked on a live-action film; his previous work includes the Pixar animated films Finding Nemo and WALL-E.[7][14] The film will be released in the Digital 3D and IMAX 3D formats.

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Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Studio: Walt Disney Studios

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