Movie Review: John Carter

Decades in the making, or at least planning, “John Carter” is finally on the big screen.  The results are mixed.

The story of Carter and his offspring on Mars was told in a series of novels written by Edgar Rice Burroughs in the first half of the 20th century.  Since the 1930’s, various filmmakers have tried to bring it to the big screen.  Disney finally did the deed at an estimated cost of $250 million.

“John Carter” is the story of a Confederate Army officer, who teleports from a cave in Arizona to planet Mars, where he’s immediately captured and analyzed by a green, warlike people known as Tharks.  Oh, and Carter discovers a unique ability on the Red Planet.  He has incredible strength and can jump hundreds of feet into the air, landing without injury.

Taylor Kitsch plays the interplanetary traveler and Lynn Collins is his love interest:  Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium.  She’s not green, when it comes to a good fight.  Carter seems to admire that quality, and it becomes clear the two will eventually be an item.  But, first, there’s a war to fight.

From almost his very first moment on Mars, Carter plunges into a “Game of Thrones” scenario.  Some warring nations want peace.  Others want to rule.  There’s also some strange figures known as Therns who seem to be manipulating events for an unknown purpose.

So, is it any good?  Yes, I like “John Carter” for many reasons.  The filmmakers kept the story in the 19th century, where it belonged.  The protagonist was a Confederate Calvary officer.  Nothing was changed for political correctness.

The movie looks expensive and its epic storyline was easy to follow.  It was, at least, for me.  I love a good yarn.  And, the film also provided nice visuals, interesting characters and good action.

My personal ticks were few.  The Thark hatchlings were just awful.  They looked like puppets.  And, when puppets are done badly, it’s hard for me to forget.

And, from a marketing standpoint, I would have made (or kept) the title “John Carter of Mars.”  “John Carter” is just too generic.  It doesn’t whet your sci-fi palate like it should.

The film is far from perfect.  Sometimes it’s silly.  But, the action and the atmosphere make this a world worth exploring.  Grade: B-