John Carter

Opens: Mar. 9

★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

John Carter, based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 11-volume Barsoom series is proof that great source material does not make a great movie. Riddled with plot holes, a terrible script, horrendous acting, spongy special effects, embarrassing 3D, generic music and pedestrian directing, John Carter is a mess of a film.

“A fish out of water” theme meshed with “learning to love again,” John Carter is 132 minutes of capture, escape, capture, escape, jump 30 times, capture, escape. Entire scenes of this film seem to be throw in so that the advertisers could have an “action packed” movie trailer… Meanwhile, the screenplay leaves characters feeling flat, with laughable dialogue and little motivation for the actions they are taking.

Carter, played by Taylor Kitsch, “jumps” from a monotone Southern accent, to a monotone John Wayne impression into a monotone James Franco after sucking on a bong. Kitsch seems to try to channel great action stars of the past, but does not have the presence, acting chops or charisma to pull it off effectively.

Dejah Thoris, played by actress Lynn Collins, is the princess of a Mars-town called Helium. Written to be the smart, strong, inventive and beautiful, Collins pulls off only the later. To be fair, a terrible screenplay positions her as an educated scientist one minute, a Mortal Combat style butt-kicker the next, and doe-eyed schoolgirl love interest the next with zero transition or motivation in between. I must have missed the part where they explained her split personality disorder… I also found it distracting that she was the only character that spoke with an accent on her planet.

Actor Mark Strong as Matai Shang, leader of the Therns, was a bright spot in the film. Mysterious and interesting, he is the character I found myself rooting for that the camera would dump John Carter and follow him around instead. One of the few actors in this film with REAL charisma, Strong seems to rise above the silliness happening around him and delivers an interesting and “deep” bad-guy character.

One other thing — I always find it funny that in a land where they have giant flying ships, hover bikes, guns, lasers and magic, but people still fight hand-to-hand with metal swords. Honestly, if this was a good idea don’t you think the U.S. Army would be placing billion dollar sword orders for our soldiers? I LOVE swords, but you need to add in some kind of plot device to explain it (George Lucas goes to great lengths in Star Wars to explain WHY the Jedi use lightsabers).

A disappointing mess, John Carter is proof that in some cases even a strong conceptual starting point is not enough to make a good movie. The three pillars of good movie making are wholly missing, being replaced with a terrible screenplay, bad acting and sloppy directing.

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