I’m actually surprised to be writing this review. I thought I would have written one long ago, when I first saw this movie. Searching through the archives, though, it seems I totally missed it.
John Carter is an adaptation of A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. In it, an American Civil War veteran finds himself transported to Mars, which is a planet of both high technology and sword-and-sandals style action. The eponymous John Carter has heightened strength which is mostly showcased through his ability to leap tall build . . . hills in a single bound. Carter unites the peoples of Mars and saves it from the threat posed by super-sciency alien types known as the Therns.
I read A Princess of Mars, but it was about ten years ago, and I honestly don’t remember that many details about the plot. I can’t really comment on the adaptation, but I can say that I am a real fan of the movie. It’s hard to discuss this movie objectively because I generally get so wrapped up in the action and adventure that I’m not paying much attention to the story. The villains’ plans seem questionable. They had various stated goals, some of them contradictory. I also found the bookending dragged a little bit. That being said, everything else was a treat.
I think Taylor Kitsch did a great job playing the hero, and I didn’t mind the hesitation he evidenced on accepting that mantle. I like how his backstory came in a collection of glimpses until an important action set-piece. I liked Lynn Collins’ depiction of Dejah Thoris, although even with the updating and empowerment provided by the script, it remains a character founded in 1930s pulp and so might not be appreciated by everyone. I loved seeing so many great actors showing up from Rome – with Ciaran Hinds and James Purefoy in noticeable roles but also Polly Walker provided the voice for Sarkoja the Thark and Nicholas Woodeson as Carter’s attorney.
The worldbuilding is great, envisioning the technology and fauna of Mars. I totally accepted the CGI Tharks and for the most part, the flyers seemed to have real heft, but I can be very forgiving of a movie that gives me so much action in the service of a great planetary romance adventure.
John Carter didn’t make back its budget, so we are very unlikely to see a sequel. That’s pretty depressing. This was a fantastic movie, but I guess the effects – pretty necessary to deliver the Barsoom experience – made it too costly. At least we got this one.
I give John Carter 4.5 Thern medallions out of 5. This is a fantastic action adventure though I think the bookending could have worked better and I didn’t find the villains’ plans comprehensible.
You can read more about John Carter and Barsoom at Encyclopedia Barsoomia.