John Carter (2012)

Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe, Samantha Morton
Transplanted to Mars, a Civil War vet 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 savior.
While John Carter looks terrific and delivers its share of pulpy thrills, it also suffers from uneven pacing and occasionally incomprehensible plotting and characterization.
  • Walt Disney Pictures Company:
  • PG-13 Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 09 Mar 2012 Released:
  • 05 Jun 2012 DVD Release:
  • $73.1M Box office:

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Trailer:

Mars never looked so good...5/10
I have so much to say about this movie but I guess I should start with what or who is John Carter.

John Carter (Kitsch) is an American Civil War soldier who is transported to Mars. He first encounters the green skinned warlike nomads known as the Tharks and, due to his superhuman powers (Mars gravity and all that), quickly becomes embroiled in not only the political issues of the Tharks, but those of the red skinned, humanoid Martians as well. The humanoids control Mars through a series of city states with Zodanga annihilating everything in it's path. Helium is the last free state. Helium also has a beautiful and feisty Princess (Collins) and a political marriage to save all has been arranged. Then she meets our handsome hero….yep you guessed it. The two fall in love and are now fighting for not just what they love and believe in but who they love and believe in.

This movie is based on the book Princess of Mars, the first in a series of 11 novels written by Edgar Rice Burroughs 100 years ago. They are also known as The Barsoom or John Carter of Mars series. A lot of what you have seen in these types of movies up until now has drawn, in some way, on this series of novels. Star Wars, Avatar, Babylon 5, Flash Gordon and even some Indiana Jones. I am sure the list is endless but Sci Fi is not my genre. When you watch John Carter, you will be able to pick the similarities immediately.

If you are aware of this movie's existence, then you are probably aware of the negative attention it has garnered. I saw this movie over 2 weeks ago and have had to watch as people all over the internet trash it. They have laughed at Disney for spending $250 million on an obvious dud. They have said Disney has distanced itself from the movie before it's release. They have criticised everything from the trailers to the posters to the casting of 2 unknowns as the leads. Oh and they have done all this without having seen the movie! These people are best ignored and sent back to their mother's basements!!

Now, I will say that Disney has done itself NO favours whatsoever with the posters and trailers for John Carter. This I will concede. But I have found the best trailer on You Tube and it was made by serious fans of the books thejohncarterfiles.

Please, if you are going to watch a trailer for this movie, make it this one. It just gives you a much better idea of what the movie looks like.

So what did I think? I LOVED it. I really, truly did. I wanted to see it because I had read so much about it over the last few years. Sci Fi may not be my thing but that doesn't mean I don't know what's going on in the land of movie making.

This movie has all the blockbuster action we have come to expect from this genre. The CGI is spectacular. The Martian characters are fantastic. The stand out Martian is without a doubt Woola, a pet that adopts John Carter and is as ugly as he is adorable. An ugly slug like animal that will melt your heart. Trust me :) There is good vs evil. There is Martian vs Martain. There is human vs human. There is serious stuff. There is fun stuff. A stand out scene I just cannot resist mentioning….

When Carter does arrive on Mars, his introduction to Tars Tarkas is absolutely hilarious. The mistake with his name becomes an ongoing gag throughout the movie and to great affect. Even our hero gives up, smiles and just shakes his head. Oh and yes, there is a very easy and believable reason why they all speak English.

This movie is for everyone who likes Star Wars or Avatar. It's for everyone who ever wished they could go to Mars. It's for everyone who likes a love story between a handsome hero and beautiful, spirited Princess. It's for everyone who wants to see a great movie and escape, literally, to another world for 2 hours. It's for everyone who likes a simple Sci Fi story. It's for everyone who likes a layered story they can think on a little later. It's for little kids (although at over 2 hours running length it may just be a tad too long for our littlest movie goers) and it's for big kids.

Ignore the critics and go see this movie. I think you will enjoy it. I saw it in 3D and I usually think 3D is a waste of money (sorry studios) but for this movie, fork out the extra $5 and see it in 3D.

Mars never looked so good.
I have been to Barsoom!10/10
I am a man of obsessions. For months, a movie I hadn't seen was the thing. Not Peter Jackson's THE HOBBIT, not Joss Whedon's THE AVENGERS, not even the upcoming Sam Mendes directed James Bond movie SKYFALL (which I'm excited about but it hasn't really sunk its hooks into me yet)...

No, it was Andrew Stanton's JOHN CARTER.

My excitement was not the universal feeling. Disney advertising had dropped the ball and the trailers seemed lackluster to most. Yet something within directed me toward it like a compass points to True North. There was something special about it, something just out of view in the trailers that wouldn't let me go. I trust my obsessions, always, but at some point I got to feeling a bit exhausted and just wanted to know if I was right or maybe a total loon.

I've now been to two advance screenings of JOHN CARTER.

And? Holy Living Thark! The bar on science fiction and fantasy movies has Officially Been Raised.

JOHN CARTER is based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars --a novel first published a century ago. I expected to come out of the movie with my head full of comparisons to all the things Burroughs' imagination inspired: STAR WARS, AVATAR, FLASH GORDON, etc. Understandably so, as I'm much more familiar with all of them. That didn't happen. Put simply, if STAR WARS is a kids' science fiction movie franchise that adults enjoy (and it is), then JOHN CARTER is an adult science fiction movie that kids will enjoy.

CARTER is such an immersing experience. Every moment reveals something new about Mars; about the exotic alien races and cultures that call it home, or about their individual characters. James Cameron's AVATAR showed us a world we've never seen before and it was wondrous to behold, but Andrew Stanton's JOHN CARTER is a movie so rich with detail that it left me feeling like I had been somewhere. JOHN CARTER feels like nothing so much than as if David Lean had made a science fiction epic of love and war set on Mars.

This movie has a confidence to it you won't be expecting. It's unafraid to linger over the characters, and give them time to breathe and reveal themselves. My favorite decade for movies is the 1960s, and JOHN CARTER has some of the epic adventure movies of that time running through it like a seam of gold. There's a bit of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA in there as I alluded to before, and perhaps a touch of ZULU and SPARTACUS is mixed in with the Martian airships and predator cities. Old fashioned storytelling magic and 21st century movie sorcery have combined into a film that's a pulp sci-fi masterpiece.

To the ERB faithful: please relax. Yes, there are changes from the novel; no, they are not the arbitrary changes made in inferior movie adaptations where the filmmaker just wants to do his/her own ideas. Every change is made to tell Burroughs' story or reveal some aspect of Burroughs' characters in a way more befitting a movie instead of a novel.

Going into this, I had absurdly high expectations. A friend of mine told me he was worried the movie wouldn't live up to them and that frankly I was starting to sound a little crazy. Well, the movie went and exceeded my expectations. I love it, and give it a 10/10. I'm definitely going to see it at least six times in the theater, and will finally buy a Blu-Ray player just to watch it at home.

I realize this review sounds over the top. That's just how excited I am about the movie. Perhaps in a previous life I was an ancient Greek by the name of Hyperboles? Anyway, see the movie. I guarantee that even if you don't like it as much as I did, you'll see where I was coming from with this gushing review.
John Carter: A surprising gem that shines bright and true5/10
Star Wars, Avatar, and John Carter. That's the cinema progression although by now everyone knows that the John Carter books came first and inspired both Lucas and Cameron. As a devotee of the books -- I appreciated Star Wars and Avatar, but neither produced the level of excitement and reader/viewer loyalty that Edgar Rice Burroughs did with his vivid and unforgettable tales of John Carter, Dejah Thoris, and Barsoom.

So what has Andrew Stanton given us?

Anwer: A gem that shines bright and true with a light all its own. Stanton has taken the grandmaster's story but he's made it his own and it's fresh and emotionally stirring in ways that are unexpected and make you want to see it a second time, and soon. The gem is not without a few rough edges -- but the core brilliance is unmistakable and undeniable.

Stanton is a subtle and sophisticated storyteller with a Pixarian's understanding of how to build characters that stay with you. Whereas Cameron in Avatar was content to extract the simple essence of the Burroughsian pulp narrative and just "go with it", Stanton keeps enough of that to keep the material recognizable but constructs characters that, in deft and certain strokes, emerge as fully realized beings who engage us and draw us in to their stories in ways that exceed what his predecessors Burroughs, Lucas, and Cameron were able to do. The result is a richer, character driven experience that transcends the dear sweet old pulpy fiber on which it is based and becomes something grander, richer, and more satisfying.

A word about how the film differs from what you're seeing in trailers: The promotion promises spectacle and action and there is plenty of that; but the promotion also suggests that the film will be a kind of childishly simple, woodenly executed mashup of questionable seriousness featuring awkward performances and cartoonish characterization while the film itself is almost the inverse of that--a thoughtful, finely tune spectacle that is a feast of imaginative transport and whose few flaws flow from the fact that it's a three hour epic that plays in two hours and twelve minutes.

Taylor Kitsch is convincing and natural and I never thought I'd be saying that, based on the promotion. Lynn Collins is luminous and elevates fully to the level of the "incomparable" Princess of Helium -- genuinely beautiful and strong of will and heart. Willem Dafoe as Tars Tarkas and Samantha Morton as Sola; Mark Strong as the delicious villain Matai Shang -- the cast is without exception strong. The special effects are state o the art and seamless -- and the music by Michael Giachinno deserves special mention: haunting, unique, and uniquely suited to the material, and the editing by Eric Zumbrunnen seamlessly supports the narrative.

The "flaws" amount to quibbles: The film feels lean and compact at 2 hours and 12 minutes and feels as if it could benefit greatly from 10 additional minutes which could have been used profitably to better set up the moment when John Carter and Dejah Thoris "close the deal" on their love, and clarify some story points that are there -- but could be highlighted more. Another beat of John Carter's life among the Tharks, implying a passage of time, would cause John Carter's later knowledge of the Tharks and their culture to make more sense (as it is now he seems to pick it up in a matter of days and as audience we never see where that knowledge comes from ). Another beat of John Carter absorbing the new world he finds himself in, and implicitly comparing it to what he left behind, would be welcome and would strengthen the impact we would feel when he makes that choice. But these minor points should not distract for the overall brilliance with which Stanton has executed a challenging assignment.

This is a film that bears watching more than once, and is complex and nuanced enough that subsequent viewings will no doubt reveal new treasures and clarify the minor rough edges -- yet it is also compelling and moving on an immersive first viewing in the theater. Perhaps the best indication of that is the fact that, in spite of my supposed knowledge of and sensitivity to film structure -- I was taken by surprise when it ended and was in no way ready for it to end. Could the full two hours have gone by that fast? How? And as I sit here writing about it the next morning, if there were an opportunity to go back and see it again tonight, I would do so without hesitation and, quibbles aside, that's a simple but ultimately profound recommendation.

A final thought: Like everyone, I've got plenty of things going on in my life and my world, distracting things, things that makes me worry, things that drag my mind out of a movie when I'm watching it and back into my world. Not one little tiny bit of that intruded into this movie. I was transported and when it was over I couldn't believe that was it -- I thought there was at least another 45 minutes owed to the audience. On a visceral level, without trying to overthink it -- that says a lot about what Andrew Stanton has accomplished, building on the foundation of the grandmaster Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Really enjoyed it5/10
I did only have modest expectations of this film as the trailer reminded me a bit to much of Dune. Really surprised to find a film which had a good plot line (albeit cynics will liken it to Avatar-lite), well acted, reasonable characterisations, brilliant visuals and a surprisingly good hero figure in Taylor Kitsch. I saw the preview screening this morning - don't really care how much it cost to make - what I found was a big budget film that I really enjoyed from start to finish. My advice - don't follow the cynics and naysayers - see it for yourself. I will normally not go see 3D films (they give me a headache) but the 3D wasn't too intrusive on this one.
Cheesy, ludicrous plot but highly enjoyable blockbuster Sci-fi fantasy adventure8/10
I saw this at a preview screening in London.

I never read any of the books so only had a vague synopsis of the story just from trailers which didn't really impress me much.

Well, this turned out to be quite a blast. Its an enjoyable if very cheesy Sci-fi fantasy blockbuster. It has the spirit and energy of Flash Gordon including its own outrageously nonsensical but fun premise. It isn't as cheesy as that film but there is a definite lean towards it. The story is quite a novel mix of Planet of the Apes, Conan, Red Sonja, Avatar, Star Wars and Superman (yep this is a superhero movie too). We even have a western thrown in the mix at the beginning. I was going to say there isn't anything original here but how can I? This story was published in the 19th century so from that perspective, I can now see a lot of plot influences deriving from this in later SF/fantasy films.

A lot of money was spent on this movie and it shows. The special effects here are pretty awesome. Not necessarily ground breaking, everything on screen has been done before but its all smoothly done at a grand scale though not quite to the scale of the Star Wars prequels. Effects that stood out for me were John Carters "Hulk" like jumps, Martian sky ship battles, green martians (as good as Avatar), and a cute monster dog sidekick that almost steels the show.

Another major feature of the film was the cinematography. Its quite spectacular and for a barren dead desert planet, its surprisingly stunning.

One of the biggest surprise for me was the 3D. Its post conversion which most often results in poorer quality than films which are filmed in 3D from the start. But an exception can be made here. This is hands down the best 3d conversion film I have seen. The 3d depth was outstanding and really shows its power in numerous landscape and action scenes. This is probably the second best 3d live action film I've seen overall (either filmed in 3d or post converted) and I am normally anti-3d when it comes to live action films.

Taylor Kitsch who plays John Carter has just about enough screen presence portraying a likable anti hero with a punchy attitude and a sense of past history haunting him. Its a Han Solo type role but he plays it more brooding. There is even a Princess Leia and the age old storyline of helping a Princess to fight a war but each with their own agendas. Its all very cliched, yet still enjoyable.

As much fun as I had with this, there is no denying that there is a lot wrong with it too. I could pick on flaws and lack of logic all day long with this film some of which are smack on the head stupid and some elements I desperately wished more or better development on. The dialogue while often funny, also often dive bombs into cringe-worthiness (much like a Lucas script), the developing romance was very disjointed and sometimes embarrassing (think Anakin and Padme levels of embarrassment). The 3 way war politics was not very clear, major characters not fleshed out enough and there's a whole lot of story loopholes. Yet there is still a lot more fun to be had to override those flaws.

I have a feeling that book lovers will be disappointed because I can detect a lot of back story is missing here and key characters seem very short changed on their development and motives (particularly with the green martians) which I am sure would have been fully fleshed out in the book. However, I reckon if you enjoy films like Thor and GI Joe, you'll have a great time with this. This wont be a classic or even a cult movie but it is a satisfying piece of cinema escapism. And its enough for me to want to read the books!