Review: John Carter (2012)

“We did not cause this. But this very night, we will end it!”

From filmmaker Andrew Stanton comes John Carter-a sweeping action-adventure set on the mysterious and exotic planet of Barsoom (Mars). John Carter is based on a classic novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, whose highly imaginative adventures served as inspiration for many filmmakers, both past and present. The film tells the story of war-weary, former military captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), who is inexplicably transported to Mars where he becomes reluctantly embroiled in a conflict of epic proportions amongst the inhabitants of the planet, including Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) and the captivating Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins). In a world on the brink of collapse, Carter rediscovers his humanity when he realizes that the survival of Barsoom and its people rests in his hands. – ROTTEN TOMATOES

I came to John Carter with absolutely no prior knowledge of the subject; past a quick look over the plot synopsis of Burroughs’ work on Wikipedia, I came to the film cold. The scope of the story is impressive, spanning 50 million miles, 2 planets and a wealth of alien species. So you can know at least as much as I did before watching John Carter, the plot is about an ex-confederate solider who is mysteriously transported from Earth to Mars, known as Barsoom by the inhabitants, where a civil war is waging between two nations.

Animation director Andrew Stanton must be a man of ambition, imagination and most of all courage to take on John Carter as his first live action picture. Add to that a $250 million price tag and you have yourself a picture that would keep even James Cameron awake at night. Stanton tackles this film by charging straight in and throws his audience into Burroughs’ world; and you know what, I had loads of fun.

The interaction between the motion capture performers and actors are fantastic, and the ease in which all the disparate pieces that collect together to form Barsoom really creates a sense of awe and conformability in the viewer; maybe due to the fact that there is more scenes involving motion captured, CGI and photographed performers working together, but I found the experience better than even Avatar, a film which John Carter will draw many comparisons to in the press. The film’s real killer blows are Tharks, the first inhabitant’s on Mars (Sorry, sorry Barsoom!) that John Carter encounters; green, 10 foot tall and with four arms, the Tharks are a fearsome warrior race, whose society is built on honour, respect and most off all, brutality.

Unlike most films of this size and budget, there is no star upon which the rest of the cast hang, but a nice ensemble set up. Mark Strong does his speciality bad guy stick (Look out type-casting), Cieran Hinds is the solid support he always is and Willem Defoe and Samantha Morten even manage to give their Thark characters a bizarre grounded sense of reality. Taylor Kitsch as the hero John Carter performs the role competently, and even though both the writing and performance are quite two-dimensional I really don’t know where else the filmmakers would have gone. Dominic West stands out as the only piece of mis-casting in an otherwise solid ensemble.

The film begins with a pre-title sequence that really isn’t needed and does slow down a little in the middle, but once it gets over that hump, John Carter moves at a brisk and exciting pace; consequently some of the scenes do feel a little rushed, especially a climatic battle sequence that could have been a bit more, well climatic! This though would have risked slowing the ride down, a move in which I feel the filmmakers made the right decision.

I am not going to get into the debate in this review, but I did feel John Carter was slightly ruined when shown in a 3D presentation; The 3D was retro-fitted in post, and really showed up elements that had been matted together onto backgrounds, and due to the huge amount of special effects this really shows in John Carter. I especially noticed this when characters are flying; I was immediately reminded of the speeders in Return of the Jedi, not a good thing in this case.

John Carter is like a ride; its exciting, confusing, colourful and if sat in the right seat at an IMAX cinema, maybe even nauseating! I feel like I am going out on a limb here giving it a half decent review judging by the reception it has been getting, but I enjoyed it and I hope to see more of John Carters adventures!

One Response to “Review: John Carter (2012)”
  1. FrontRoomCinema says:

    Interesting review. I came away with the same feeling as yourself. Although I found the 3D did add a level of depth that was epic on the vast deserts of Barsoom

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