Film and TV

John Carter -Film – 7GPPs

by on 16/04/2012
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Renegade Virginian Civil War veteran Captain John Carter (Kitsch) finds himself mysteriously transported from a cave in Arizona, 1868, to the planet of Barsoom (Mars), where he unexpectedly tips the balance of a war between the Zodangans and the Heliumites, by rescuing Heliumite princess DejahThoris (Collins) while earning the enmity of the sinister Matai Shang (Strong).


John Carter is certainly an epic film; but what it isn’t is the big Hollywood in your face, bombastic, wham bam, huge impact, just one more explosion thank you Michael Bay, sci-fi blockbuster we have all become accustomed to these days.  It is a rather understated, quiet, self-assured movie, that has the feeling of classic about it.

Based on the pulp novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the film was never going to capture the wider audience and so needed to be more than your average sci-fi blockbuster to be a success.  So the line was drawn in the red Martian sand: is John Carter better than your average sci-fi blockbuster?

The plot is simple and actually endeavors to muster a story, with interesting characters, feeling, and dimension.  Something Michael Bay has yet to show us while grossing millions of pounds worldwide year after year.   The film revolves around the title character Captain John Carter, a Confederate Civil War Cavalryman who is transported to Mars and into a war that has left the world ravaged and entering its end of days.  Having forgone his days of war, Carter simply wishes to return home.


The film is often jovial, with impressive action scenes and effects with a colourful range of characters that Andrew Stanton has touched with his clever direction.  The motion-capture giant four-armed Tharks are extremely impressive and expressive, following the advancement made in Avatar to allow the actors to show their expression through the CG adding to overall impression of the film.

The production design is in part steampunk and part John Ford Western and from the start you get a sense of how big this film is.  It has a feeling of watching William Wyler’s Ben Hur and David Lynch’s Dune, with the added production design mixed in.

Where the film suffers is that it often gets bogged down in the storytelling, as if trying to avoid any accusations of being superficial.   It’s not often you have me complaining about too much story; however, at times when the film is moving along nicely and you are being carried to great heights, only to become tethered in needless or drawn out character movement.  The Martian politics and illustrative scenes are hampered by stuck up pretension and sometimes not explored enough.  Despite the giant monsters and the expansive scenes, the film does have a sense that it is small scale.  Just as Ben Hur and Dune where both epic they lacked a certain presence of grandeur and sadly John Carter has the same.

Although Taylor Kitsch does occasionally hit the target with his dour delivery he is slightly bland, but he does pick up as the film gears towards the finale .  Lynn Collins plays the princess Dejah Thoris, who looks amazing, with a look that is only added to by her Martian Tattoos and takes the mantle of the best ass-kicking princess since Princess Leia.  Mark Strong plays, well Mark Strong, if you need a bad guy, Mark’s the man for you.  You are; however, left disappointed with Ciaran Hinds, James Purefoy and Dominic West, who aren’t given the chance to fully use their talents given their roles within the film.

To summarise, John Carter is an epic film and will be a cult classic.  Unfortunately it can’t match the level it is required to overcome its initial marketing difficulties, but I would urge you to take a leap on the red sands, you will not be left disappointed.