¨Did I not tell you he could jump!¨
John Carter was one of the biggest box office disappointments of the last decade, and it`s too bad because it actually isn`t that terrible. I actually enjoyed most of it thanks to the spectacular visuals and the interesting science fiction story. I had the same reaction with John Carter as I did with Avatar, I didn’t find them to be great movies, but I didn’t hate them either. This film was directed by the creator of Finding Nemo and Wall-E, two hugely successful films, so I guess they can forgive Andrew Stanton for the loss. Stanton proves he can manage the artistic side of his films, but I think what John Carter lacked was a little more comedy to loosen the tension. Sometimes it`s good in these type of fictional films to lighten up the mood by not taking itself too seriously. That was the biggest error I found in John Carter, it took itself way too seriously when the premise actually is a little ridiculous. I did have a lot of fun however with the action scenes and the spectacular visuals. John Carter is actually based on the stories written by Edgar Rice Burroughs over a century ago, ¨A Princess of Mars¨. These stories had a great impact and influenced other writers` imaginations for such works as Superman, Flash Gordon, and Avatar. John Carter should have been better distributed as most people had never heard of it before and probably thought it was just a copy of all these past science fiction films. It wasn`t a great film, but it deserved a lot more recognition than what it received.
The story takes place during the late 1860`s while America was facing a Civil War. Captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) had withdrawn from the war and was searching for gold in a hidden cave. When an Officer named Powell (Bryan Cranston) comes searching for him to join his cavalry, Carter flees once again only to be caught in the middle between Powell`s men and some Apache Indians. Carter ends up hiding in a cave and discovers the gold he had been looking for, but out of nowhere a mysterious man shows up with some sort of device that transports him to another planet. Carter finds himself in Mars (or as the natives call it Barsoom) with no idea as to where he is, but he discovers that he can jump extremely high and long distances. A group of natives known as the Jeddaks led by Tars Tarkas (Willem Defoe) find John Carter and take him prisoner. Mars is in the middle of a civil war as the people from Zodanga are trying to conquer the entire planet. The only resistance is put up by the people of Helium, but the leader of Zodanga, Sab Thon (Dominic West), has recently been given a powerful weapon that can easily destroy the city. The weapon came from Matai (Mark Strong), who seems to be from the same species as the person Carter found in the cave. Sab promises not to destroy Helium if Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) agrees to marry her, but Matai has other intentions with the planet. Dejah runs into Carter and realizes he can be their only hope for salvation.
The action scenes in this film are pretty interesting, but the movie suffers from not having some sort of comedic relief. At times the movie seems to move too slowly and it begins to drag, but the great visuals make up for it. Taylor Kitsch gives a believable performance, but we can’t help but feel something is missing in this new world (perhaps a better supporting character). I still think John Carter is much better than what the trailer makes you believe it is. Edgar Rice Burroughs was a great writer and he had some interesting ideas, the problem is that this movie isn’t a novelty as his stories were over a century ago. The sad thing is we now have seen and grown to love films that actually were inspired by John Carter. Burroughs also created the Tarzan stories and in a way John Carter resembles him in some aspects of the story. John Carter is worth a watch for what the story has meant and for the great visuals that Stanton has created, but there is not much more to it.