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John Carter Review: It Will Blast Your Childlike Wonder In the Face

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John Carter Review: It Will Blast Your Childlike Wonder In the Face

Directed by: Andrew Stanton

Known for: Finding Nemo, Wall-E

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Why Should I Care?

First blockbuster of the season, Disney dumped $250 million into it, very nice abs for girls and boys to enjoy!

Genre: Action & Adventure, Kids & Family, Science Fiction & Fantasy

There hasn’t been an epic science fiction film like this since Avatar. Not surprisingly it fails and succeeds in many of the same ways. Since John Carter doesn’t break ground with flashy new special effects, and isn’t directed by James Cameron, I suspect it won’t do as well as Avatar, which is too bad because this is science fiction heaven as far as I’m concerned. If you’re a person who likes to get their childlike sense of wonder blasted right in the face you’re going to want to check this film out.

John Carter Review: It Will Blast Your Childlike Wonder In the Face
There are quite a few wonder inducing moments.

John Carter isn’t a Michael Bay action film, but more akin to an adventure flick like Indiana Jones. This sets it apart from Avatar, and in my opinion, makes it a better film. Ultimately the main requirement of a proper adventure is to be unpredictable and fun. Yes of course we know John Carter will prevail, but for the most part I was surprised by developments of the story and was genuinely interested in what would happen next.

John Carter Review: It Will Blast Your Childlike Wonder In the Face
“Hold on, hear me out, this film is actually good,” John Carter told the posse riding to burn this film.

The story will seem faintly similar to anyone who saw last year’s Cowboys and Aliens only this time the cowboy is going to Mars. John Carter, played by Friday Night Lights star Taylor Kitsch, has recently died all of sudden and has given his entire estate to a nephew. We quickly learn Carter was searching the globe for something and he seems to have collected a giant booty of artifacts along the way. His diary is given to the nephew and the story begins. Carter is a war veteran, handy with a sword and intelligent too. He’s a man who’s always been searching for something and he boy does he get it in droves when he lands on Mars. Once there, he meets princess Dejah, played by the smoking hot Lynn Collins, meets an alien voiced by Willem Dafoe and finds himself in the middle of a world war.

John Carter Review: It Will Blast Your Childlike Wonder In the Face
One of my favorite actors, Willem Dafoe, voices a horned alien.

There’s a few things some viewers may need to come to grips with in order to enjoy this movie. The first thing is, this isn’t the Mars NASA has shown us, but the Mars creator Edgar Rice Burroughs envisioned back in 1912. Oh, and one other little annoyance: John Carter seems to be able to jump 200 feet in a single bound due to, as they put it, bone density. That’s not the problem I have though. I actually found it kind of cool as I always thought it worked well for the Hulk. Of course the Hulk was also invulnerable and could land without hurting himself, and Carter isn’t… so i guess that’s a problem too. I digress, the second problem is simple; because he can leap real high and fast he’s deemed a savior and a hero. There were a few times I thought to myself, “well if he couldn’t jump he’d be worthless to this princess.” I suppose his sword skills come into play as well, but in most cases Carter wins the day because he can jump real far and high. It’s simple enough for a child to get behind, but it might severely ruin the movie for some.

If you don’t let those two things bother you, John Carter takes you on a wild ride with some nice action sequences, some cool science fiction culture and a hero you can believe in. But much like Avatar not everything is perfect. Some of the action sequences are bloated and pointless as the CGI renders them boring and monotonous. He takes on a dog sidekick that can run nearly at the speed of light. It looks cool, but far too often it serves the plot in groan inducing ways. Also the bad guy, who by his description is God, is really easy to thwart. At one point Carter gets the drop on him and I wanted to slap my for-head and shout “Durr!”.

John Carter Review: It Will Blast Your Childlike Wonder In the Face
Don’t tell George Lucas this guy is wearing a robe, in a desert, in a science fiction film. The Lucas Lawsuit will occur forthwith.

I think anyone can like this film as long as they expect an adventure that is really only about a journey. A lot of critics are slamming it for bad characterization. This film isn’t about the hero’s journey, because there really isn’t any character development or point to the movie beyond spectacle. The man wants to get home and along the way decides to fight. The story isn’t going to win any Oscars.

That’s not to say the characters are flat and pointless though. There’s definitely a sexual tension between Carter and Dejah. Willem Dafoe also fills out the alien character with his familiar yet gritty voice. You actually feel for the CGI character. Bryan Cranston also makes a great cameo and does a bang up job.

John Carter Review: It Will Blast Your Childlike Wonder In the Face
Nearly every John Carter comic showcased Carter and Dejah nearly naked. This film certainly nailed that aspect.

Everything feels weighted in reality too, as the clothing and culture of the Martians is complex and makes sense for a desert society. The aliens also aren’t racist caricatures like many alien races in Star Wars. They seem to be a mix of African tribe meets Native American culture, although aside from their clothing and seeing their church that’s all you have to go on. The architecture of the cave dwellings of the Martians and the massive cities of the red-human-like martians are inspiring to look at though. Avatar consistently felt false to me in this respect whereas John Carter adds just enough character to the world to be believable.

John Carter Review: It Will Blast Your Childlike Wonder In the Face
Mars must have a killer gym. Everybody has sick abs.

There are many moments that will put a smile on your face. John Carter waking up to find baby aliens hugging his warm body didn’t feel forced. Watching John Carter learn to walk on Mars, and on first attempt, flying right off the ground onto his face, you can’t help but empathize with the guy and start rooting for him. The architecture and design of the ships that “fly on light” are also jaw dropping. They do remind me of the hover crafts in Return of the Jedi and come to mention it John Carter’s dog friend looks a lot like Jabba the Hutt. These similarities are only strengthened by the fact that each scene takes place in a very Tatooine desert. Flashbacks are handled nicely too, and I won’t ruin it here, but there’s a story element near the end of the film that will make sci-fi fans giddy.

John Carter Review: It Will Blast Your Childlike Wonder In the Face
This gladiatorial game may remind you of Clone Wars, but don’t worry. It’s cool and doesn’t wear out its welcome.

I’d wager this movie wasn’t released during the Summer because Disney didn’t have faith a movie missing character development and purpose would do well. The film is more interested in impressing the audience with special effects, artistic design and action sequences but I’m perfectly okay with that. Not every film needs to teach us something or have the hero come to some revelation. At the end of the day entertainment’s purpose is to distract the audience long enough so that we can forget our humdrum lives and take that bullet out of the chamber. John Carter delivers enough entertainment to force you to put the gun down. Slap that on a poster.

The Verdict

Grade: B+


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