Wednesday, 14 March 2012

John Carter - Movie Review

There's a reason it reminds you of Star Wars and Avatar, that's because this story inspired those.

Having been inexplicably transported to the mysterious and exotic planet Mars, John Carter becomes embroiled in a conflict of epic proportions and discovers that the survival of the planet and its people rests in his hands.

Who's In It

Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Thomas Haden Church, Willem Dafoe, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy

What I Thought

I had high hopes for John Carter, and I'm happy to report for the majority it delivers.

Carter on Chemistry
When I first heard the story of John Carter I thought to myself, whoa that's sounds epic but at the same time I thought it sounds massively complicated. So what is John Carter? Well its a series of science fiction novels written a hundred years ago by Edgar Rice Burroughs, who wrote Tarzan. The first of those, The Princess of Mars has been adapted for the big screen. Having now seen the film, it's not as complicated as I thought.

For me the film has four story lines. The first is where the film opens after the civil war and John Carter has died. Don't worry, that's not a spoiler. His nephew comes to his house after being designated to inherit his estate. Combing through his uncle's items he reads his uncle's journal and the story starts to unravel.

Here it jumps to the civil war where John Carter is trying to find a cave of gold. This is the second story line and doesn't last all that long after he escapes from army detention. He finds the cave and through a sequence of events is transported to Mars, or Barsoom, which is what the local inhabitants call it. This is the third story line and a large amount of the movie is spent on the red planet. The fourth storyline is a sequence of flashbacks to a time where John Carter reminisces about his wife.

Struggling to pull the plug
But Mars is what we want to see. The budget for this movie was apparently $250-300 million, and it shows. There are Martian airships, big and small. An amazing battle with two giant white apes. Hundreds of 8ft four armed aliens known as Tharks. The city of Helium is lodged in a stunning setting of a crater. The moving city of Zodonga is enormous and a sight to behold. And this is where the similarities start to set in.

A lot of people will say it's a rip off of Star Wars or Avatar. Both George Lucas and James Cameron must have read Rice Burroughs novels as kids and been influenced by them, as there are many similarities. The animals the Tharks ride - called thoats - look like Banthas. The battle scenes with the white apes remind me of the colosseum in Star Wars where the Jedi are attacked, as well as the battle in Jabba the Hutt's hideout. The wild mini airship escape and chase from Zodonga between the moving legs of the city, reminiscent of the speeder chase through the forests of Endor. You'll surely spot more. The difference though is that Mars gives John Carter super human abilities like strength and the ability to jump great distances which aid him in his quest to help save the planet. It's all amazing to look at.

The planets alien race, the Tharks, are also well animated and voiced. Woola, the 100 mile an hour alien dog, will long be fondly remembered by fans. And there's a good chemistry between our hero Kitsch and the Helium princess of Dejah Thoris, played by Collins, who he ends up trying to save.

There are some issues with editing, for example the brief opening scene on Mars feels tacked on but helps to add to the explanation of what Strong's villain, Matai Shang, is up to.

All in all, John Carter is a brilliant sci-fi movie for fans. I walked out wanting to see a sequel.

Memorable Quotes

  • "You are ugly but you are beautiful! HE WILL FIGHT FOR US!"
  • "Did I not tell you he could jump!"
  • "No good'll come out of me fightin' your war."
  • "We do not cause the destruction of a world, Captain Carter. We simply manage it. Feed off it, if you like."
  • "If you had the means to save others, would you not take any action possible to make it so?"


It's Epic! Not 5/5 epic but you must check this out if you're a sci-fi fan, it's up there with the big boys


This should give you an idea of the scale of John Carter

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  1. Despite occasional moments of silliness, the old-fashioned sense of adventure and brilliantly rendered aliens elevate this above other derivative big-budget sci-fi fare. I still wished that Kitsch did a lot better in this lead role but he was only there for eye-candy really. Good review.

    1. Thanks Dan. I really liked it, and would like a sequel, but with poor performance at the box office, I'm not sure. Maybe it'll be a cult hit on DVD / Bluray...


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