After escaping the draft, John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) finds himself accidentally waking up on Mars where a war between two nations is coming to a head. He reluctantly joins the fight to help Princess Dejah (Lynn Collins) of Helium defeat the enemy Zodanga.
John Carter is an obvious sendup to B-movies from the 60s-80s. It has a lot of similar elements to something like Krull or Star Wars, but it also has a lot of elements you would see in a kids’ film from the late 90s. Honestly, I have never been a fan of either of these types of films. Having them together, for me, just creates an unwatchable bore-fest with little moments of pure aggravation. Like, there’s this one thing they used to do in movies in the 90s a lot where a male character would tell a female character to step aside while they fight bad guys, only for the female character to jump in and do better at fighting than the guy did, and then gloat about it. Yeah, I just described note-for-note a scene in this movie. I have always hated that because apparently the moral they want the audience to take out of it is “chivalry should die.” But I’m losing focus.
For the most part, I found myself pretty bored with this movie. It’s a very shallow film with a very basic storyline and very uninteresting characters. Honestly, the most interesting moment of the film for me was when I realized that Willem Dafoe was doing the voice for the leader of the alien tribe. I did enjoy a lot of the Earth scenes. It takes place in the late 1800s and feels a lot like the better parts of Cowboys vs. Aliens in the beginning. But it feels like watching scenes from a completely different movie when Carter is on Mars amongst the admittedly beautiful and lush CG effects. The movie drags quite a bit as well, both in the middle and to a much greater extent at the end.
I kind of enjoyed the mythos behind everything but I didn’t feel like it was used to a very interesting extent. They establish before the third act just who the mysterious robed men who have been showing up throughout the film are, and it’s a neat idea. But it just seems like there could have been a much more interesting story told with those characters. I know it’s based on a book, but you can make stories that take place in the same worlds as other stories (in fact, we have Prometheus coming out later this year), or even just a story inspired by another. I have not read the original stories, but if they’ve been trying to make a film based on them since 1931 then I can’t imagine they’re as boring as this movie was.
I’m finding it hard to justify the rating I’m going to give this movie, but there was a tiny bit of charm there that kept me from completely disliking the film. I’m assuming it was the humor, which was the only of two saving graces. The other being John’s backstory which is told in very brief flashbacks and ultimately dealt with in an odd way. If this movie looks like something you would enjoy, then by all means give it a shot. Just know that it’s well over two hours long, and it shows.