John Carter:- A Missed Opportunity

John Carter – Review 3 Stars

By Kyle St John Peters

First time live-action director Andrew Stanton has tried to pull off an epic feat. He has spent $250 Million dollars on attempting to bring to life ‘A Princess of Mars’, the century old novel written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, that has inspired everything from Superman to Flash Gordon, Star Wars to Dune and even more recent smash hits like Avatar. When you watch this film you can literally play ‘spot the inspiration’ of the last 80 years of Science Fiction. Stanton has attempted to bring us old-fashioned thrills that hark back to the days of the original Star Wars and Indiana Jones films, where we are put through cliff-hanger after cliff-hanger and are praying that our beloved hero will survive the journey. John Carter stood the chance of being such a film… a classic. Sadly though, it misses the mark by a long shot.

What worked? Andrew Stanton has spend a great deal of time and effort into creating a fantastic world for our story. The visual imagination on display is astounding and is realised in some truly gorgeous 3D ( I was almost salivating at some of the glorious alien vistas on display, especially during the travel montages). When you think about the fact that the source material is 100 years old, you can’t help but stand in awe of what a read it must have been for people at the turn of last century. Stanton has also done an outstanding job, not only on the visual world, but in the creation of fantastic cultures on the planet of Barsoom.

Carter’s initial arrival on Barsoom has some great comedic moments and it was at this point that I still had high hopes that I would be taken on the adventure of a lifetime. During the first half an hour of my visit to the planet, I wanted to live there. I wanted to adopt one of the cute baby Tharks and make sure I had my own domesticated dog/frog thing like Woola. On that note, Woola, Carter’sloyal alien hound is a fantastic little creation, one of the stand out points of the film for me. He is byy far the character with most heart, which might give you a clue as to where I’m going next…

What didn’t work? Basically everything else. I am still of the belief that Taylor Kitsch is a great actor with a great look and screen presence. Unfortunately, like his role in X-men Origins, he is not given much to work with in the script and the lack of chemistry between him and the female lead amount to a very apathetic response from us, the viewers. Also, she was far to Xena: Warrior Princess for my liking, but then perhaps that’s how she was in the novel. The antagonists in the film were also very weak.

The story is just a tad muddled, as is the pacing. We never really get a sense of the direction the story is actually going in, and when ‘significant’ things happen, Stanton fails to make big enough ‘moments’ out of them. The problem perhaps lies in the low stakes of the story and characer… yes, we know the fate of the world hangs in the balance, but we never really believe that Carter will ever fail and we never arrive at a point in the film where we honestly feel that all may be lost. So, no matter how visually spectacular the fight with the white apes may be, or how epic the airship gun battles and sword fights are, we are never truly invested in them and in the end, they fall quite flat.

Final Verdict:- John Carter represents a missed opportunity of the highest degree. The potential of a great enthralling journey in a wonderfully realised exotic culture, is squandered by a lack of chemistry between the cast, uneven plotting and a lack of genuine peril.

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