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Review: John Carter

Mar. 6, 2012by: Chris Bumbray

PLOT: A Civil-War vet, John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is magically plucked from our world, and transported to Barsoom- aka Mars, which is being ravaged by an evil warlord named Sab Than (Dominic West) whos under the control of a race of ancient, all-powerful beings, led by Matai Shang (Mark Strong). Carter allies himself with a warlike race called the Tarks, which are eight-foot tall green creatures, ruled by Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) in order to find a way home, but he must also contend with a headstrong princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) whos trying to escape her forced marriage to Than, and believes hes the man to save her and her people.

REVIEW: Well, its finally here. After a development process that went into decades, the long-awaited film adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter of Mars finally makes its way to the silver screen. Disneys put at least $250 Million into what it hopes will be the start of a new billion dollar franchise, but is the end result worth all the bother?


While I dont know that any film is worth a quarter of a billion dollars (and thats not even counting P&A), JOHN CARTER is quite a good film. Its a lavish, beautifully made fantasy adventure, and once certainly cant accuse the producers, or director Andrew Stanton (of Pixars FINDING NEMO) of having made a lazy film, as CARTER is anything but.

Burroughs series of books has been mined over and over again, for everything from FLASH GORDON, to STAR WARS, to DUNE, to AVATAR, so one can forgive the makers if the film feels slightly familiar, as the source material set many of the archetypes that are still found in most grandiose fantasy epics. JOHN CARTER was the grand-daddy of them all, and to that end, Stanton has obviously done his damnedest to make a film that can stand toe-to-toe with the heavyweights of the genre.

Now, Im not saying JOHN CARTER is the new STAR WARS, but youve got to hand it to Stanton for taking a real stab at it. There are a lot of things about Carter that are just about perfect. The one thing that immediately sticks out is the score by Michael Giacchino, with this being, in my mind, the best thing hes ever written. The JOHN CARTER theme is immediately distinguishable right from the get-go, when we get our first, shadowy introduction (a la RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK) to the man that will be taking us through this epic adventure.

As for our hero himself, I was sold on Kitsch pretty much right off the bat. While it would have made a lot more sense for Disney to have anchored this with an established star, the use of a virtual unknown (yes, yes- I know he was Gambit in WOLVERINE) is actually not a bad idea in that you immediately see him not as Taylor Kitsch playing John Carter, but rather that he actually IS Carter, with no movie star baggage keeping us from accepting him as anything less.

Kitsch certainly has the physical look to play Carter, with him having a lean, wiry-but muscular look thats a contrast from some of the burlier action heroes. It suits the part to a tee. Hes also very charismatic, and seems confident carrying such a massive production, which is a vital attribute thats sunk a lot of would-be blockbusters.


The thing thats ultimately going to be the deciding factor for whether or not JOHN CARTER is going to be the kind of film you can totally give in to is how quickly youre able to buy into the world of Barsoom. This is certainly the thing thats either going to make or break CARTER at the box office, but for me, it was a non-issue. While Barsoom isnt quite as immersive as something like Pandora (the tepid 3D doesnt help- although I saw this is REAL-D, not IMAX), I still had an easy time getting into the swing of things. I loved the Tarks, thanks mostly to Willem Dafoes great voice/motion-capture work as Tark Tarkas, which humanizes his character the same way someone like Zoe Saldana did in AVATAR. The rest of the Martians are even easier to buy, as theyre all human looking minus a slight red pigmentation, and the fact that they bleed blue (which, allows Carter to spill buckets of blue blood without threatening the PG-13 rating). Lynn Collins (another WOLVERINE alum) is gorgeous, and likable as the headstrong, Princess Leia-ish Dejah Thoris, and while her romance with Carter should have maybe been given a bit more time to build, it cant be denied that the two have effective chemistry.

As much as I like JOHN CARTER, its not a perfect film, although the faults are minor. For one, theres an awful lot of exposition, which I suppose is a necessary evil for a series-launching film like this, but rather than explaining each and every thing about Barsoom at its inhabitants, Stanton and Co., might have been just as well off leaving some of that for potential sequels. I also thought the climax came a little too quickly, and a better mano-a-mano battle royal between Carter and the chief baddies would have been a welcome addition. Of course, this is only meant to be part one of the Carter saga, so I suppose a bigger showdown for Part 2 is in the cards if enough people flock to theaters.

Overall, JOHN CARTER was a really pleasant surprise for me, as all the hubbub about the blockbusting budget, unknown leading man, and general confusion around the premise (dropping MARS from the title was a colossal blunder- and the full title on-screen is JOHN CARTER OF MARS) had me thinking Id be watching a sci-fi ISHTAR. Thankfully, JOHN CARTER is nothing of the sort, and I had a terrific time with it, and I truly think the majority of you will too. Ignore the buzz, and make up your own minds.

Extra Tidbit: Notice how a lot of the bad buzz is starting to fade now that people are actually seeing the film.
Source: JoBlo.com

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11:05AM on 03/25/2012

Fun time at the theater

Don't know if anyone is still checking this review, but I just wanted to add another positive review to the list. this was a fun movie which captured the raw sci-fi, action and romance of the novel in an impressively updated way. Liberties were taken, but I don't think that hurt the movie at all (might have actually made it better, in hindsight). Kitsch was good, as was the rest of the cast. Lilly Collins was GORGEOUS, and the costumes certainly got your attention. I'd fight a planet for
Don't know if anyone is still checking this review, but I just wanted to add another positive review to the list. this was a fun movie which captured the raw sci-fi, action and romance of the novel in an impressively updated way. Liberties were taken, but I don't think that hurt the movie at all (might have actually made it better, in hindsight). Kitsch was good, as was the rest of the cast. Lilly Collins was GORGEOUS, and the costumes certainly got your attention. I'd fight a planet for her, too! I just hope people don't give up on seeing this movie, and sequels can be made eventually. It'd be a shame if marketing killed this potential franchise (and yes, it should be "John Carter of Mars"!)
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5:35AM on 03/12/2012

JOHN CARTER Review

Great review here. I pretty much agree. Check out the full NERD review here: [link]
Great review here. I pretty much agree. Check out the full NERD review here: [link]
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+0
7:02PM on 03/11/2012

better than avatar by miles and most in its class

Want more of the same. Well made.. im a bit confused as well as op about the crappy press the movie got months before release; pretty unfounded except maybe for the money but im sure that will pan out
Want more of the same. Well made.. im a bit confused as well as op about the crappy press the movie got months before release; pretty unfounded except maybe for the money but im sure that will pan out
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7:45PM on 03/09/2012
just got back from this movie and it was just terrible. Very cheesy dialogue
just got back from this movie and it was just terrible. Very cheesy dialogue
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1:37AM on 03/07/2012
I am a big SciFi fan so I felt that I was going to see this anyways, however this review and other decent reviews this movie has been getting have been making me more excited.
I am a big SciFi fan so I felt that I was going to see this anyways, however this review and other decent reviews this movie has been getting have been making me more excited.
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+11
4:55PM on 03/06/2012
I screened the movie last night, and I thought it was good, but not great. John Carter isn't without its flaws, but it's still a good movie. I'd give it a 7 out of 10. It's definitely worth seeing if you're a sci-fi fan.
I screened the movie last night, and I thought it was good, but not great. John Carter isn't without its flaws, but it's still a good movie. I'd give it a 7 out of 10. It's definitely worth seeing if you're a sci-fi fan.
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+14
4:53PM on 03/06/2012

actually excited to see this

but the red is for the rating system.

rating board: "we're gonna rate this R because it has John Carter slaughtering countless lives with gory results"

Disney: "yeah but the blood is blue not red"

rating board: "GREAT point, a PG-13 rating it is! here you go!"

what the fuck is that? I mean well done Disney but that just makes whoever does these ratings look absolutely retarded. lol
but the red is for the rating system.

rating board: "we're gonna rate this R because it has John Carter slaughtering countless lives with gory results"

Disney: "yeah but the blood is blue not red"

rating board: "GREAT point, a PG-13 rating it is! here you go!"

what the fuck is that? I mean well done Disney but that just makes whoever does these ratings look absolutely retarded. lol
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4:10PM on 03/06/2012
Awesome. Can't wait to see the movie.
Awesome. Can't wait to see the movie.
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3:07PM on 03/06/2012

Not what I heard.

Doubt this will be any good, just judging from the 10 minute clip I saw. Other reviews are the polar opposite of this one, and it's interesting that there is no mention of plot, narrative or character development in this review since that seems to be the biggest problem with the film from what I've read elsewhere. We'll see how well it fairs on RT overall but I have serious doubts.
Doubt this will be any good, just judging from the 10 minute clip I saw. Other reviews are the polar opposite of this one, and it's interesting that there is no mention of plot, narrative or character development in this review since that seems to be the biggest problem with the film from what I've read elsewhere. We'll see how well it fairs on RT overall but I have serious doubts.
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11:06AM on 03/06/2012

Screened It.

I screened it last night. I made the mistake of deciding to read the book beforehand. Lots of liberties were taken and the rawness of the book was stripped away. I understand some of the changes for the pacing of the film but disney stripped it of it's maturity. It's a shame. For those who didn't read the book from 1913, I expect them to really enjoy it. At least the film did bring my attention to what I'm sure will be a fantastic 13 book series and for that I'm thankful.
I screened it last night. I made the mistake of deciding to read the book beforehand. Lots of liberties were taken and the rawness of the book was stripped away. I understand some of the changes for the pacing of the film but disney stripped it of it's maturity. It's a shame. For those who didn't read the book from 1913, I expect them to really enjoy it. At least the film did bring my attention to what I'm sure will be a fantastic 13 book series and for that I'm thankful.
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+9
11:00AM on 03/06/2012

a must-see now

I'm very glad this movie is getting positive reviews, because the trailers showed enormous potential. Also, Taylor Kitsch really needs to become a superstar. If any of you have seen him in Friday Night Lights, then you know how talented this guy is and its nice to know he can finally move past that POS of a movie that was X-Men: Wolverine. Really excited to see this!
I'm very glad this movie is getting positive reviews, because the trailers showed enormous potential. Also, Taylor Kitsch really needs to become a superstar. If any of you have seen him in Friday Night Lights, then you know how talented this guy is and its nice to know he can finally move past that POS of a movie that was X-Men: Wolverine. Really excited to see this!
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8:10AM on 03/06/2012

Quite happy

We get another decent action/fantasy/family movie.
We get another decent action/fantasy/family movie.
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7:45AM on 03/06/2012
I'm somewhat hesitated whether to watch it or not. Guess it's really worth the price of admission.
I'm somewhat hesitated whether to watch it or not. Guess it's really worth the price of admission.
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7:04AM on 03/06/2012

LOOKS GOOD...

But sadly it will probably bomb at the box office.
But sadly it will probably bomb at the box office.
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+15
5:50AM on 03/06/2012
Wasn't impressed with the trailers, but this review is encouraging for me to see the film.
Wasn't impressed with the trailers, but this review is encouraging for me to see the film.
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3:52AM on 03/06/2012
No surprise here, the trailers hinted at something special.

But the title change is indeed disastrous. John Carter of Mars is such a cool fucking title, why change it?
No surprise here, the trailers hinted at something special.

But the title change is indeed disastrous. John Carter of Mars is such a cool fucking title, why change it?
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8:15AM on 03/06/2012
This is just a guess - but i would say they wanted to remove any "cheesy" taste it COULD give off, ala "Mars needs moms" or "Mars Attacks"... Mars is the go-to planet for stories, no need to emphasize it.
This is just a guess - but i would say they wanted to remove any "cheesy" taste it COULD give off, ala "Mars needs moms" or "Mars Attacks"... Mars is the go-to planet for stories, no need to emphasize it.
8:16AM on 03/06/2012
That being said, I would have preferred they leave it in, because if you look at a local listing and have not seen the trailer, "John Carter" tells you shit-all about the film/story.
That being said, I would have preferred they leave it in, because if you look at a local listing and have not seen the trailer, "John Carter" tells you shit-all about the film/story.
3:06PM on 03/06/2012
Yeah, that would be my 1st guess too.
But like you said, just John Carter says fuck all. Makes it sound like a Michael Clayton type flick.
Yeah, that would be my 1st guess too.
But like you said, just John Carter says fuck all. Makes it sound like a Michael Clayton type flick.
+12
3:16AM on 03/06/2012
This is great news, I'm glad to hear the reviews are strong. Unfortunately, I think this movie will fail at the box office due to the piss poor ad campaign and big budget, but hopefully the quality of the film will give it some legs as more and more people hear good word about it.
This is great news, I'm glad to hear the reviews are strong. Unfortunately, I think this movie will fail at the box office due to the piss poor ad campaign and big budget, but hopefully the quality of the film will give it some legs as more and more people hear good word about it.
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1:22AM on 03/06/2012

Nice!

Glad to hear you liked it. I've been somewhat obsessing about this movie and the source universe lately, reading the prequel graphic novel and the first book to get ready for this flick and I absolutely adore the book. It's great action-packed adventure with a great unique environment. Very excited to see this in IMAX on Friday! thanks for the review
Glad to hear you liked it. I've been somewhat obsessing about this movie and the source universe lately, reading the prequel graphic novel and the first book to get ready for this flick and I absolutely adore the book. It's great action-packed adventure with a great unique environment. Very excited to see this in IMAX on Friday! thanks for the review
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