"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
TOTAL RATING - 96