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06 June 2012

John Carter (2012)

Directed by: Andrew Stanton
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe
Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Action
Colour, 132 Minutes

Verdict: Although not as horrible as I expected, John Carter tries hard to be a fun-filled action fantasy film, and fails in the end while replicating many other films in the past. There are some nice jokes, but the wooden characterisation and messy pacing ruin the film as a whole.

Plot: John Carter, a man from Virginia in the late 1800’s discovers a lush planet inhabited by 12-foot tall barbarians. Finding himself a prisoner of these creatures, he escapes, only to encounter a princess who is in desperate need of a saviour.

The first problem the film has is its plot. When I saw the trailer, I assumed John Carter was going to be a character that ends up transported to a new world by some unknown source. Well, it is this, but more for no reason. First, we begin in a western-like setting in Virginia, were Carter stumbles across a medallion that transports him to the new world. However, things get complex as the film struggles to explain itself stating that it is a clone of him. To make things worse, 80% of the film is actually being told through a diary entry.

"Look man, I didn't ask to be here"
The problem is we see the diary being read by a character, which we give no attention, and dive right into the story. Are there voice-overs or scenes swapping to remind you it is from a diary? No. It fatally stumbles to tell the story, and the ending is unforgivably stupid. From the moment the film begins, unrecognisable names of characters and locations are thrown in that instantly become frustrating.  Why the hell Barsoom?

The next problem with the film is its pacing. It is difficult to explain, but it slows down, speeds up, jumps from time to time and just gets lost in itself too much that really brings it down. To sum up the film’s direction it is just plain messy. I am disappointed as I thought the film might have had some hope due to being directed by animation director Andrew Stanton, who had previously directed Wall-E, co-wrote Finding Nemo and co-directed A Bugs Life. It seems this jump from animation to live-action (well, half live-action) did not work out for him.

John Carter is based upon the Barsoom Novels written in 1931 by Edgar Rice, and on the 1917 novel A Princess of Mars. These two books have influenced the Sci-Fi genre, which even predates Metropolis (1927). The film seems to have come far too late, and I am surprised it was not made many years ago. Perhaps even by Harryhausen in the 60's or 70's

Furthermore, the film tries to create an expansive world for us to engage with and to be thrilled by. Why does it fail? The film tries to cram lots of information and show the various different cultures within the planet of Mars, but it is simply too much for a short time. Why does it work with other fantasy films? Put it this way; what do Harry Potter, Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings have in common? They have more than one film to explain the worlds within the stories. They all took their time. Now, I do not mean this as a huge criticism but the film just failed to create an engaging universe of its own and did not take it’s time to develop it’s plot and characters.

"Why are we so stoic and emotionless?"
The performances did not help, as the characters were wooden. Despite some mildly funny gags by the alien voicing cast (which were great), the acting felt lifeless and just undeveloped completely. I'm not even going to bother explaining, but throughout the film your wondering when the characters were going to come alive. 

The film in the end, has been critically unsuccessful and a blunder in the commercial world. One reason for this would be the film’s lack of star quality. This is fine, but it is quite clear when making a film on a large scaled budget, it is vital to include recognised stars in order to grab attention. Overall, the film is not horrendously bad that it is offensive, but it does nothing special or fresh and lacks entertainment value, making it a sandy and forgettable movie to skip.

Age Certificate: 12a
John Carter will be out on DVD and Blu-Ray on July 2nd, so if you want to buy it and destroy it.



  1. I just saw this movie recently and I was surprised by how much I liked it. As I wrote in a recent post I rarely pay attention to professional critics so their dislike for this film didn't keep me from seeing it and I'm glad.
    The fact that this was coming from a diary entry didn't bother me. Most of The Princess Bride comes from a book that is being read. Does it really matter to the enjoyment of the movie?
    If your problems with the ending come from a certain "re-animation" then you have to go back to Edgar Rice Burroughs, not the filmmakers. That's from the book, although not involving the same other characters.
    As for the film trying to establish too much, there is actually far more to Barsoom that gets revealed in the later books. We really only did see the parts pertinent to this first story in the movie.
    I agree the acting wasn't the greatest, but I don't look for great acting from a big action movie. As for why it failed, I think your reaction illustrates the primary reason: the studio or filmmakers did a very poor job communicating what the film was going to be about. The first mistake was dropping the "of Mars" from the title because some marketing person didn't like it. The trailer then showed Carter doing lots of big jumps, so people probably watched the movie figuring there would be an explanation for it. Other than a passing reference to different gravities, a person would actually have to know that the gravity on Mars is 1/3 that of Earth to really get it.

  2. I know what you mean by saying blame the book not the story, because it is probably how it unfolded in the book. However, I thought in terms of narrative they really just jumbled it up. Thanks for your comment, I guess I was a little harsh on this one, but it is still a fairly average action movie.



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