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John Carter Movie Reviews

Posted on the 09 March 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost

John Carter reviews: Martian madness or sci-fi epic?

John Carter. Photo credit: Disney

Disney’s latest sci-fi epic offering, John Carter chronicles the adventures of the titular John Carter, an ex-Confederate army soldier transported from 1868 Civil War Arizona to the planet of Barsoom (Mars). There, he finds himself involved in a parallel Martian Civil War between the evil Zodangans and the oppressed Heliumites after he rescues beautiful Heliumite princess Dejah Thoris from the villainous Matai Shang.

John Carter stars Taylor Kitsch as Carter (described by Chris Tookey in The Daily Mail as “justifiably little known and tragically well-named”), Lynn Collins as Princess Dejah, Willem Dafoe as Tars Tarkis and Dominic West as Sab Than, the Prince of Zodanga. Other Brit actors Ciarán Hinds, Mark Strong and James Purefoy appear in cameo roles.

The movie cost Disney £160 million to make – all those CGI Martians don’t come cheap – but was it worth it?

You couldn’t make it up. The complex plot was actually lifted by director Andrew Stanton (of Wall-E, Toy Story, Monsters Inc. and Up) and screenwriter Michael Chabon (author of Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay) from the 1917 sci-fi novel A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, who later created Tarzan. This book was so popular that it spawned ten sequels. In fact, according to The Sun’s Alex Zane, before Disney released Snow White in 1937, this was due to be the world’s first feature-length animation.

Derivative or the original legend? While casual viewers might think this film is ripping off sci-fi favourites including Star Wars, Star Trek, Superman and Avatar, Betsy Sharkey, of the Los Angeles Times points out that Burrough’s Barsoom series was in fact the source of many of these plots and ideas: “But just as you can’t put Pandora back in the box, Stanton can’t find a way to make Burroughs’ now-familiar fantasy themes feel fresh.”

But is it any good? Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian called John Carter a “giant, suffocating doughy feast of boredom,” while Chris Tookey in The Daily Mail heralded “this year’s first mega-disaster…less ‘Star Wars meets Avatar’…more ‘Cowboys & Aliens collide with Fire Maidens Of Outer Space’.”

A big production with no heart? While many critics complained that John Carter is too long and too expensive, Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal suggested that Disney’s corporate culture was the real villain here, as the film “bears the woefully familiar earmarks of a big studio production that was pulled and hauled every which way until it lost all shape and flavor.”

Stories that stand the test of time? But The Sun’s Alex Zane and Empire Magazine ‘s Dan Jolin both gave the film three stars. Jolin enjoyed the way John Carter was “both incredibly familiar and oddly novel,” a treat for fans because “just about every sci-fi/fantasy/superhero adventure you ever loved is in here somewhere”. Peter Travers, in Rolling Stone, explained that “John Carter exerts the pull of a tall tale told by a campfire…built on something rare: wonder instead of Hollywood cynicism.”

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