Dir. Andrew Stanton, US, 2012, 132 mins
Review by Michelle Moore
2012 marks the 100 year anniversary of John Carter, the first novel in the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars series. Having already found success in various areas of pop culture including novels, comics, animation and TV, it only seems fitting that an action adventure movie on the big screen be the next step.
The film is set on the mysterious planet of Barsoom (Mars), whose inhabitants include Zodanga and Helium warriors, the four armed Tharks and the manipulative Therns. When John Carter mysteriously appears, all the inhabitants of this planet are thrown into turmoil and an adventure unfolds.
The narrative before Carter lands on Barsoom is a little confusing. The story begins in 1881, which turns out later to be the year of his death and his story told through a journal given to his nephew. The journal begins in 1868 when Carter goes looking for gold but instead finds his way to this far off planet. The majority of the film is devoted to his experiences here, with him later returning back to his own time, and from this point on his life in the years leading up to 1881 is revealed. The manner in which the first hour or so of this time scale fragmentation is explored is tricky for an adult to understand, so might be even more difficult for a child to make sense of it all. One of the most puzzling parts of the story involved a copy of Carter’s body being transported, as opposed to his actual presence, which leads to some strange requests when he dies and to his waking after some time with stiff joints and very dry complexion. However as the movie concludes, everything begins to make sense – Carter’s transportation to Mars and his return, his sudden death and his plans to return to his beloved as soon as he is able.
Although the 3D effect is unremarkable – nothing popping out, jolting you or appearing super lifelike – it works wonders on the scenery, making the planet a beautiful and tranquil looking place. While there are the odd moments which evoke laughter, such as when Carter repeatedly attempts to escape from jail or when he wakes to finds himself covered with cuddly and adorable hatchlings, much like the one that comes from the cupboard in Evolution, the overall lack of humour makes for a much more serious movie.
Taylor Kitsch (John Carter) has come a long way since appearing in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Here in the lead role of John Carter, he engages us with his character’s personality, while his soulful yet edgy voice gives his dialogue a convincing, heartfelt quality.
Considering this is a Disney film, there are a few concerns. The 132 minute duration for example, is tough for an adult to sit through without fidgeting let alone a child. There are a lot of scenes featuring fighting and gun and sword welding and the names of the characters are unpronounceable. Having said that, the film remains an enjoyable and intriguing, sci-fi orientated piece, which many adults and teens are going to love.