Monster Disappointment Disney's 'John Carter' Squanders Any Sense of Adventure

By Gire, Dann | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), March 9, 2012 | Go to article overview

Monster Disappointment Disney's 'John Carter' Squanders Any Sense of Adventure


Gire, Dann, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Dann Gire Daily Herald Film Critic By Dann Gire Daily Herald Film Critic

dgire@dailyherald.com

There's nothing wrong with the epic science-fiction Mars adventure "John Carter" that can't be fixed with a more talented lead actor, sharper direction, a smarter script, tighter editing and in-focus 3-D cinematography.

Don't be misled by that TV commercial calling "John Carter" the next "Star Wars." If it is, it must be the Jar Jar Binks chapters and not the classic original trilogy.

The lumbering, tedious "John Carter" comes off as a huge disappointment, not just because director Andrew Stanton gave us the brilliant animated sci-fi feature "WALL-E," but also because Edgar Rice Burroughs' century-old literary creation -- about a Civil War officer who travels to Mars and falls for a native princess -- has directly or indirectly inspired other much better motion pictures, James Cameron's far superior 3-D science-fiction adventure "Avatar" for one. At least its 3-D focus isn't so soft.

Stanton's adventure fizzles on narrative takeoff. In its opening aerial battle sequence, civil war has broken out on the angry red planet with two factions of red Martians locked in combat.

One side belongs to the beguiling Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins with a British accent) of the city of Helium; the other to the power-crazed Sab Than (Dominic West), who possesses a blue, nuclear-lightning bolt glove given to him by the leader (Mark Strong, also with a British accent) of the Therns, robed, shapeshifting monks of anarchy anxious to lay waste to the planet.

Now we go to where "John Carter" should have started, back on Earth in 1881 where a young Edgar Rice Burroughs ("Spy Kids" star Daryl Sabara) receives the diary of his deceased relative John Carter and begins to read about his earlier life, triggering a giant flashback.

Had the movie begun here, we would experience Carter's story as it unfolds through his eyes. Instead, this film sadly lacks any sense of discovery, awe or amazement.

A former Confederate cavalry officer, the rebellious Carter (played by an underwhelming Taylor Kitsch) searches for gold, and instead finds an amulet with the power to teleport him to Mars. …

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