John Carter is a mammothly unfocused epic
Starring Taylor Kitsch and Lynn Collins. Rated PG.
The most mind-warping thing about John Carter is the way the 100-years-in-the-making film seems like a shameless rip-off of itself. Sound confusing? Well, that’s appropriate, considering that even devoted disciples of Edgar Rice Burroughs will end up wondering what the hell’s going on in this mammothly unfocused epic.
If it seems like we’ve seen this movie before, that’s because we have. John Carter is based on a series of Burroughs-penned Barsoom books, which date back to 1912, that have heavily influenced films from Star Wars to Avatar.
Condensing those books for the big screen, director Andrew Stanton (Wall-E, Finding Nemo) packs too much information into an often-confusing 132 minutes. One minute, hunktastic Civil War vet John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is dodging Apaches in the American Wild West. The next, he’s taking giant leaps for mankind on a sandblasted Barsoom (that’s, um, Barsoom talk for Mars), learning to live with towering, four-armed lizard folk. Along the way, he’s embroiled in a war between battling tribes of humans who, inexplicably, have English accents but take their fashion cues from ancient Rome.
Kitsch does a serviceable, if not exactly flashy, job as Carter, with the former B.C. boy knowing when it’s time to drop the smouldering shtick and give the camera a wink. Bigger props go to Lynn Collins, who kicks a Princess Leia–like amount of ass as warrior princess Dejah Thoris. As for Stanton, he never manages to rein in John Carter, which is bogged down by science-fiction mumbo-jumbo and syrupy love-story sequences.
Still, some moments almost compensate. Those include battle sequences on flying ships that George Lucas might have dreamed up if he’d been a steam punk. And wait until Carter, chained to a rock pile in a mountaintop coliseum, does battle with two mammoth white “apes” that look like nothing that’s ever walked the Earth. It’s then, for five thrilling minutes, that John Carter seems to aim higher than ripping itself off.
Watch the trailer for John Carter.