IMDb describes the film’s premise: “Transplanted to Mars, a Civil War vet discovers a lush planet inhabited by 12-foot tall barbarians. Finding himself a prisoner of these creatures, he escapes, only to encounter a princess who is in desperate need of a savior.”
The movie is based off Edgar Rice Burroughs' 1911 novel, A Princess of Mars, which featured John Carter as the protagonist. I can’t say I liked the film’s title, but then again, I’m not sure using the book’s title would have been much better; however, with Taylor Kitsch playing the lead role, I was excited. I’m sure female audiences were more than happy to see Kitsch prance around topless, but my excitement was based around the fact that he had portrayed Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (remember, I am a bit of a comic geek).
Kitsch’s physique is no doubt what made him ideal for the role, but he has decent acting chops as well. Combined, they make him a good hero and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him taking similar roles in the future. Additionally, Kitsch had some big talent surrounding him, though I wasn’t impressed with how they were all utilized.
For instance, Willem Dafoe and Thomas Haden Church were both in the film, but they both portrayed CGI alien characters. To be honest, I didn’t even realize it was them until the credits rolled. Had I known, I think I’d have appreciated their performances a bit more.
Bryan Cranston (who I absolutely love in AMC’s TV show Breaking Bad) and James Purefoy were also in the film, in human roles I might add, but I feel they were totally underutilized. Cranston was in the film for all of 8 minutes, and while he had some comic relief as a blonde-haired Civil War general, it left me wanting more. Likewise, Purefoy played Kantos Khan, a character that wasn’t fleshed out and essentially glossed over.
I will give casting credit for Dominic West as Sab Than and Ciaran Hinds as Tardos Mors. I think West makes an excellent villain, as he proved as Jigsaw in Punisher: War Zone, and it’s no secret I’m a fan of Hinds. If you need evidence of Hinds’ ability, I recommend you check out my reviews on Tailor, Tinker, Solider, Spy and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Interestingly, both Hinds and the aforementioned Purefoy were in one of my favorite TV shows, HBO’s Rome, where they played Julius Caesar and Marc Antony respectively.
As a whole, the cast of John Carter was good, but even their performances and stardom couldn’t make this a hit. While I haven’t read Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars, I can tell there was a good story there, the problem with putting it on the big screen, in my opinion, was time. Even with a runtime of 132 minutes, John Carter felt rushed. The story, characters, conflicts, etc. were introduced, but not necessarily established.
John Carter had a Cowboys vs. Aliens feel, though it took the cowboy to the alien’s world instead of the other way around. With that said, I thought they did a decent job of blending the two genres. While not the best I’ve ever seen, the special effects were pleasing, especially on the 3D screen where I saw it. John Cater had pieces in place to make a blockbuster, but its execution was flawed.
As I’ve said before, the reason for this was the muddying up of the waters. From the Civil War Era, to aliens on Mars, and back to turn-of-the-century London, plus alien races and conflicts, and it was all just too much. John Carter needed more time; in fact, breaking it up into two films wouldn’t have been a bad idea. That way, the story could have been explored in full, characters developed, and a franchise possibly established. Instead, things were rushed and dumbed down; for example, the civil war between Helium and Zodanga was basically boiled down to a war between team red and team blue.
Things moved too fast in John Carter for me to become invested. To be honest, it ended up being just like 2010’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, a big-budgeted “blockbuster” with a chiseled leading man fighting forces in a faraway land to become another faction's hero. With that said, I highly doubt John Carter will be able to pull in the $335 million that its counterpart did if for no other reason than it opened for just $30.2 million, second behind Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, which brought in $38.8 million in its second week of distribution (brining two-week total to $121.7 million). It’s hard to predict where it will go from there, but early indicators suggest the year’s first blockbuster may turn into one of 2012’s biggest flops.
Buddies Forever Movie Club Rating: 36%
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