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John Carter

2012-03-30 11:44
 
What it's about:

John Carter (played by Taylor Kitsch) is an ex-Confederate soldier who chooses a life of solitude and adventure searching for treasure. Just as he discovers a cave of gold, he is suddenly transported to Mars, where he is taken prisoner and forced into an ongoing civil war.

What we thought:

Disney have a bit of a challenge on their hands with John Carter – a science fiction story written at the turn of the 20th century that’s set on a distant planet and populated by a cast of characters that range from four-armed aliens, to tattooed warriors, cowboys, cavalrymen and pale-skinned, shamanic baddies.

There’s a whole lot going on in John Carter as it jumps not only from one planet to another, but also time periods as we meet our titular hero as he’s being chased through the rain-drenched streets of New York City in 1881, only to learn that he’s died and left his possessions and personal journal to his nephew, Edgar Rice Burroughs - a fictionalised version of the author who created Tarzan and would go on to write the John Carter stories. The narrative of the journal forms the main thrust of John Carter's adventures and only once all the story set-up is out of the way does the movie, quite literally, fly.

Once he's landed on a strange land that looks very much like the American desert he’s just left behind, Jon Carter realises, with some great difficulty, that he is able to jump very long distances. Though he doesn’t quite come to the understanding that he's not in Kansas any longer until he encounters the tall, leather-skinned Tharks – a sort of primitive race of aliens who imprison John.

His time spent with the rather violent and ruthless Martians leads him to the red-skinned humans of Mars, who are embroiled in a civil war. The Zodangan lord Sab Than (Dominic West, at his villainous best), has been bestowed with a powerful weapon and seeks to crush the neighbouring city of Helium, whose beautiful princess Dejah Thoris (played by Lynn Collins, who appeared alongside Taylor Kitsch in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, directed by SA’s Gavin Hood) is struggling to develop a weapon that can match Sab Than’s ferocity and save her city.

The premise of John Carter is a bit of a tall order for anyone not familiar with Burroughs’ stories and, coupled with Disney’s all-out marketing that seems to be aiming to attract anyone over the age of 10, it is a film best enjoyed as it unfolds, with director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, Wall-E) exploring this strange new world through its hero's eyes.

As an action-adventure, John Carter is a hugely enjoyable ride that becomes increasingly thrilling simply because it feels like a leap into the unknown, which is certainly true for John. The Mars of Burroughs’ stories (or Barsoom as it is known to the locals) is a frightening and beautiful place, filled with unique structural details and equipped with the type of technology that the film doesn’t really have time to explain to the audience.

It's in the little moments between the characters that John Carter begins to engage. John eventually befriends the Jeddak – or leader – of the Tharks (voiced by Willem Defoe) and his ill-treated underling Sola (Samantha Morton) and is swept up in the battle between Zodanga and Helium despite his own personal code to keep to himself and not take sides in any conflict. He is haunted by memories of a wife and young child he lost during the Civil War and the darkness never quite leaves our tortured hero.

As portrayed by the strapping figure of Canadian actor Taylor Kitsch (best known for his role as a bad boy football player on the TV series Friday Night Lights), John Carter is more than a muscled adventurer – he comes across as a soulful and thoughtful man of the world who has yet to discover that he has true value.

Though his task is perhaps not as difficult as Lynn Collins’ who has to portray a warrior-scientist-princess while wearing costumes that leave very little to the imagination. Mark Strong makes an impression as a shape-shifting mystical being who is both Bardoom’s greatest threat, or possibly its saviour. This enigmatic character is left to be explored further in the remaining two films in Disney’s planned franchise.

The CGI is impressively done though not too flashy as we're in a world of dull metallics and earthy tones, like something out of Raiders of the Lost Ark or the Roman Empire. This clash of cultural touchstones can tend towards an assault on the senses. At certain points, characters and structures start to look indistinguishable from one another as we travel across the unremarkable and desolate desert landscape of Bardoom.

There’s no denying that Stanton has created a messy but charming film that doesn’t cease to entertain even as it takes another detour into a battle or some sort of fact-finding mission that makes it hard to reconcile with what came before.

Anyone looking for the second coming of Avatar will be sorely disappointed. John Carter may be hard to love, but its ambition and full-on embrace of old-fashioned adventure tales and genre makes it, at least, a unique cinematic experience.


A messy, at times incomprehensible Western/sci-fi adventure that plays as a thrilling, old-fashioned adventure film from some bygone era - but with better special effects.

Read more on:    disney  |  taylor kitsch  |  john carter  |  celebrities  |  review  |  movies
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(Comments may be edited or deleted at the Channel24 editors’ discretion)
RJ 3/12/2012 10:55 AM
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This is possibly the worst movie I've seen in years. I walked out after 1 hour - totally terribly boring. Don't waste your money on seeing it at the cinema.
SS 3/12/2012 11:50 AM
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Not bad at all. Good story....
Janet 3/12/2012 1:46 PM
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Watched it loved it:-)
Keith 3/12/2012 2:45 PM
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Saw it last night. What a waste of time and money. 3D effectes were more impressive during the adverts. Could not wait for it to end.
Anel 3/12/2012 10:08 PM
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Was really not my cup of tea, I fell asleep. it was far to long and not a sit back and relax movie. I could not wait for it to end.
EM 3/13/2012 1:44 PM
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Loved the "dog" :)
Win 3/13/2012 3:11 PM
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EM, I agree, out of everything the movie had, the 'mutt' was the best:-)
PIET 3/13/2012 3:18 PM
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Awesome movie!!!!!
Sham 3/13/2012 5:15 PM
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3D effects were poor but enjoyed the movie. Will give it 6/10.At least it's something different IMO
HP 3/14/2012 2:19 PM
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Good movie and special effecs not to bad..
HP 3/14/2012 2:24 PM
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Good movie and special effecs not to bad..
david-hutch 3/14/2012 2:55 PM
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I Thoroughly enjoyed the film, thinking of watching it again!!
Julie 3/15/2012 11:15 AM
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I simply cannot understand why every big production movie has to be 3D. I would have enjoyed the movie in 2D just as much - maybe a bit more as the glasses tend to irritate me and I can't really see anything spectacular through them. Enjoyed the movie though it was a bit too long
mduduzi moses sambo 3/15/2012 1:52 PM
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I einjoyed it, i hope they go ahead with the sequel
Sean 3/19/2012 11:53 AM
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Watched it yesterday. LOVED it. Stay away if you're into boring like The Descendants though. This movie actually has alot going on.
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