Wednesday, March 14, 2012


"John Carter sweeps you up in its epic story and never releases you until the very end!"

Science Fiction-Fantasy, Action and Adventure
Starring - Taylor Kitsch/John Carter, Lynn Collins/Dejah Thoris, Willem Dafoe/Tars Tarkas, Samantha Morton/Sola, Dominic West/Sab Than, Thomas Haden Church/Tal Hajus
Director - Andrew Stanton
Writer(s) - Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon
PG-13 - intense sequences of violence and action
1 hr., 58 min.

John Carter is based on the novel "A Princess of Mars" by Edgar Rice Burroughs, published under the title "In the Moons of Mars" and serialized in All-Story Magazine in 1912. The film does an excellent job of taking an old fashioned “planetary romance” and making it into a story with just enough pseudo-science to make it acceptable to a 21st Century cinema fan. This fan was not only engaged by such a fanciful concept, I was fully captivated by it. John Carter succeeded on the most important level of all and that is it entertained me!

The film begins with the “death” of John Carter in 1886, who leaves instructions to his nephew – a fictionalized Edgar Rice Burroughs - to entomb him in a crypt. He also leaves Burroughs with a journal of his adventures on Mars, with instructions not to publish it for another 21 years. The rest of the film is the tale set down by Carter in the journal.

Carter, emotionally distraught by the death of his wife and child at the hands of the enemy at the tale end of the Civil War, sets off west to find his fortune in gold and start his life anew. Instead, he finds an ancient-looking relic that somehow transports him to Mars. Not understanding where he is, Carter is amazed that on this desert landscape that he finds himself, he can leap hundreds of feet at a time. Soon, Carter is found and captured by the local Green Martians known as Tharks, who are a tribal six-limbed race. After learning their language, Carter discovers that he is on Barsoom and has no way of returning to his own planet Jasoom.

Carter learns of a sacred area of caves; where ancient writings tell tales of technology that seem similar to that which transported Carter to Mars. Taken there by the disgraced Thark Sola, Carter discovers the secrets of Mars. But before he can implement a plan of escape, he is caught in the middle of a war between the Red Martians, who are in the midst of a civil war. Sab Than is a warrior who has gained the power of the mysterious priests of Mars that enable him to destroy entire flying ships with a single energy blast. He is using this power to take over all of Barsoom. One remaining city is fighting back, but is losing and Sab Than demands the hand of its Princess Dejah Thoris to stop him from destroying its inhabitants. Carter helps the Princess escape, then goes on to fight Than, with the help of his Thark alies and its leader Tars Tarkas.

John Carter sweeps you up in its epic story and never releases you until the very end! Carter as played by Taylor Kitsch is a taciturn but likeable man, who always does the right thing, even if reluctantly at first. Dejah Thoris as played by Lynn Collins is a strong and beautiful woman, who is equally at ease fighting with words or a sword. Tars Tarkas as voiced by Willem Dafoe is the loyal tribal leader, who respects Carter for his acts of courage and his respect for the customs of his people. The rest of the cast is filled out by fine character actors, who all respect the material, even when it calls for them to recite dialog that feels a trifle stilted. One of the standout Barsoomian characters is Carter’s faithful Calot, which is a dog-like creature that is able to outrun even a Thoat (a Barsoomian horse) and John Carter himself.

There are wonderful airship battles throughout John Carter, which are reminiscent of ancient Earth sea ship battles, as they inevitably end with one party boarding the other ship and fighting hand-to-hand and sword-to-sword. All the action in John Carter serves a purpose and is not just there to serve as eye candy.

Everything from the designs of the airships, to the costumes of the Red and Green Martians are done with wonderful attention to detail that really help to make Barsoom feel real. It is quite an accomplishment of the filmmakers to create such a fanciful world, yet make it feel tangible and lived in.

I can’t recommend John Carter highly enough! Such an ambitious cinematic undertaking deserves to be supported, so I recommend seeing it at the theater and not waiting to watch it on DVD/Blu-ray or other means. I personally would like to see a sequel to John Carter and the only way that can happen if people go to see it at the theater. If you like exhilarating science fiction and fantasy adventure, you will definitely love John Carter!

TECHNICAL: Acting – 9 Directing – 10 Cinematography – 10 Script – 9 Special Effects – 10
VISCERAL: Visual – 10 Auditory – 10 Intellectual – 8 Emotional – 10 Involvement – 10


  1. Good review. Kitsch could have definitely been a little bit more charismatic but the flick still works due to amazing special effects and some really fun and exciting action. Sad thing is that this flick was made for $250 million and won’t make any of it back.

  2. Thanks for the kind words regarding my review of John Carter, Dan O! I had a very difficult time writing it, because I loved this movie so much I wanted to rant on all the haters of the film instead of just reviewing the film itself. Still, I think I should have added a bit more on the performances of the actors involved. I agree that Taylor Kitsch was not overtly “charismatic” as John Carter, but it felt to me that director Andrew Stanton was going for a more naturalistic approach to his actors’ performances, as the overall tone of all the actors in John Carter was fairly unaffected. I think by keeping the characters grounded, it helped “sell” the fantastic settings and imaginative creatures better.

    Yes, John Carter reportedly cost a whopping $250 million dollars to make, but that doesn’t mean that even with the modest $30.2 million that it made domestically on its first weekend, it won’t eventually make a profit. According to Box Office Mojo “The movie grossed an estimated $70.6 million from 51 territories, which included all major markets aside from China and Japan.” They continue with, “Considering China and Japan are the largest markets in the Asian Pacific region and have yet to open, John Carter could ultimately be in for a respectable final tally. Still, historical comparisons seem to suggest that the best case scenario is around $300 million overseas.” It doesn’t seem like Disney will lose too much money on John Carter’s theatrical release and it will most likely do at least that well in the DVD/Blu-Ray, PPV, and other markets. Disney is very good at making money, so I have no doubt that they will find a way to turn a profit off John Carter eventually.

  3. The sad issue is that there will not be a return to this world in our lifetime. Still we have this film to enjoy, I see this as a highly repeatable experience.

  4. Hi, Richard!

    Call me an eternal optimist, but I do think there is a chance of a sequel to John Carter.

    Clash of the Titans cost an estimated $125 million dollars to make and only made a little over $163 million domestically. However, it took in $330 million dollars in foreign markets, which came to a total of nearly 500 million dollars worldwide. As a result, there is the sequel Wrath of the Titans coming out March 30.

    I think John Carter is still capable of making close to 500 million worldwide, which may be enough to convince Disney to make a sequel; provided they cut the budget by about half. There are no big name salaries to pay and a lot of the production costs for a sequel to John Carter have already been spent on the original film, so I do think there is at least a chance.

    I can assume by your comments that you – like me – will be buying the DVD/Blu-ray of John Carter when it is released later this year, because as you say it is definitely “a highly repeatable experience.” This too may add to the value of a sequel.

    Thanks for your comments, Richard!

  5. Doc.
    This was the other entry I had been wanting to read and respond to.

    I'm very optimistic after reading your review. I definitely am intrigued by the story, the mythology and the characters. I really like that Calot you mentioned. He cracks me up. About the only thing that looks disappointing is the speed used on some of the CGI creatures that looks like something out of the arena in AOTC.

    Having said that, there are many reasons I think I would enjoy this. As you mentioned:
    A. Edgar Rice Burroughs. Love his stuff.
    B. Andrew Stanton. I think he did a marvelous work on WALL E, particularly that first half.
    C. It just looks epic.

    I was really sad to see it not making a lot of money out of the gate. I was wishing it well despite being on the fence about it. I'm still optimistic, like you, that it might rebound or generate enough to keep it going, but it does look like a long shot.

    Loved the review. I'll probably end up purchasing it.
    Nice coverage!

  6. I thought John Carter might be something you’d really be into, Sci-Fi Fanatic!

    If you have any familiarity with Burroughs’ books in the John Carter of Mars series, I think you’ll enjoy the film even more than someone who hasn’t read the books, as you’ll be able to fill-in some of the background information that the film communicates only visually. Still, I only read the first book years ago and I was able to keep track of the many different characters and locations fairly well.

    I think that with the hundreds of effects shots, featuring up to hundreds of elements in some of them, I think there are bound to be a few shots that feel “not quite right.” A lot of people are comparing the CGI in John Carter to Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and I don’t think it’s accurate. The CGI that was done in SW: AotC was done ten years ago and though it was state-of-the-art at the time, I feel the character animation in particular in John Carter is far superior.

    One of the reasons that John Carter is not making enough at the theaters is because older fans – like yourself – who are familiar with the source material of John Carter and therefore more likely to not write off the film as just another crappy CGI-infested Star Wars/LOTR knock-off, are not going to the theaters to see it. They, like you, are waiting to either buy or rent it when it is released on DVD/Blu-ray. Disney and the other studios consider anything other than the theatrical ticket sales to be a secondary market and therefore not considered to count in the overall profitability of a film. If you want John Carter to be considered to be profitable enough to be considered for a sequel, you should really go and see it at theater.

    Thanks for the interesting comments as always, Sci-Fi Fanatic!

    1. My pleasure. And one more interesting conect here before I shove off to sleep.

      Your third and fourth paragraph is really interesting in the comment. I agree. Old schoolers like myself are being a little turned off by what we are seeinhg in those trailers. I know this topic was brought over at FC's review.

      You both did a nice job with this film.

      But, those trailers are doing the concept and the film a disservice based on what I'm reading by many thoughtful science fiction fans. That's a real shame because this film is going to suffer for it.

      They are definitely driving the trailer to be be in that mold. It's probably more sophisticated as epic fun goes than that brief look gives it credit for.

      I understand your point. I'd like to see it in the theatre but I just might not make it and that will be unfortunate.

      DVDs really should be considered in profitability. I always thought us Browncoats might see a reversal on Firefly based on sales of the DVD after its failure. It seems like that one has sold boatloads. CHeers and have a good week Doc!