Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘John Carter’ Review: There Is No Life on Mars

I remember watching the trailer for this movie a few months back and wondering what the heck John Carter was about. After watching the two and a half hour long film, I still have no idea.

The plot was convoluted, confusing and all around boring, which is a shame because for a movie that had such a huge budget, I expected a whole lot more.

John Carter is supposed to be an action, adventure, sci-fi story of a man whose life is sucked out of the Civil War decade in Northern Virginia and transported to the planet Barsoom (also known to us Earthlings as Mars). Obviously, John Carter of Mars would’ve been a much more fitting title and one that actually made sense.

We are introduced to John Carter at the start of the very beginning of the film where we see him in this western get-up, across from Bryan Cranston, who plays one of the guys in the ‘South’ that is trying to capture Carter and who is also not in the movie nearly enough. (Drive anyone??) With the western bit going on at the start, there was one point I actually leaned over and asked a fellow film critic, “Is this going Cowboys & Aliens?,” which was one of 2011’s worst films by far! Ugh.

All of a sudden, Carter finds himself in this cave, where he meets a Thern, also known as a shape-shifter and he’s whisked off to Mars where he becomes a part human part martian warlord. Once on Mars, Carter runs into Tars Tarkas (voiced by Willem Dafoe), who is enchanted with his supernatural talents and takes him hostage, bringing him into the world of the Tharks.

After a little bit, Carter then falls all over the beautiful and rebellious Princess Dejah (Lynn Collins) of the Red Martian city Helium, who’s fled her home in fear of an arranged marriage to Sab Than (Dominic West). As pretty as Collins is, she looked way too old to be Carter’s love interest and it was just poor casting all around. Sab Than is buddy buddy with lead Thern Matai Shang (Mark Strong, who plays lead creeper remarkably well) who apparently wants to overthrow the whole kingdom.

Between the Red People, the Therns, the Tharks and all the characters in between, this movie gets confusing quick. Carter continuously gets captured, then he escapes, he goes up, he goes down and we’re forced to watch him go through the tedious motions.

Director Andrew Stanton took the leap from animation (Finding Nemo and Wall-E) to live-action mixed with CGI and I wish he had some better material to play with. Not that the original John Carter books, comics, whatever weren’t fascinating, they obviously were because of all the fans of the franchise, but the story in the film was just all over the place!

John Carter is a tangled flick that has hints of Avatar, Star Wars and even that crap Hayden Christensen’s flick Jumper all mixed into a two and a half hour long snooze-fest.

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