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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
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Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Taylor Kitsch
Lynn Collins
Mark Strong
James Purefoy
Dominic West
Ciaran Hinds
Willem Dafoe
Thomas Haden Church
Samantha Morton
Polly Walker.
Directors
Andrew Stanton.
Screenwriters
Michael Chabon.
Running Time
132 minutes

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John Carter
The unstoppable SFX machine


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Plot
Renegade Virginian Civil War vet John Carter (Kitsch) finds himself mysteriously transported from a cave in Arizona, 1868, to the planet of Barsoom — Mars — where he unexpectedly tips the balance of a war between the Zodangans and the Heliumites by rescuing Heliumite princess Dejah Thoris (Collins) — earning the enmity of the sinister Matai Shang (Strong).


Review
John Carter
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This adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ pulp cosmic opera A Princess Of Mars has been almost a century in the making. In the meantime, eager purveyors of science-fiction have picked and pulled at Burroughs’ creation, so much so that virtually every scrap has been thrown into the slow cooker of popular culture and long since served up as stock. From those lovably creaky old Flash Gordon serials, to Superman, to Star Wars, to Dune, to The Matrix, to Avatar, the childhoods and nerdhoods of generations have succoured their collective imagination with Carter incarnations. And yet the original has been, it’s fair to say, largely forgotten, certainly not even fractionally as famous as his Luke and Supes-shaped spiritual progeny.

Which puts the movie in the unique and not entirely comfortable position of feeling both incredibly familiar and oddly novel. Like Avatar, the hokey plot concerns a capable, manly Earthling loving, fighting and learning from the restless natives. Yet here that Earthling is a 19th century American Civil War veteran-turned-gnarly prospector, “projected” into a world that, true to Burroughs, is a mirror of Carter’s own time rather than ours.

So where James Cameron’s supernature-loving, braid-tugging Na’vi were threatened by environmentally rapacious Terrans, here the prime tribes of Barsoom are locked in their own civil war — one side even wears blue — with another (the green, gangling Tharks) caught in the middle. From gunslinging in the Wild West to sword-swinging on the fourth rock from the sun, myth layers on myth. (But then, that itself sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Barsoom is hardly a world away from Tatooine…)

Carter’s chaperone at this long-overdue party is a director who represents both a safe pair of hands and a considerable risk. While it features a significantly motion-captured alien cast, this is Pixar champion Andrew Stanton’s first foray into live action. It’s a greater challenge than, say, Andrew Adamson faced when making The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe. And, as an adaptation, an adventure, and a world-building exercise, Stanton’s achievement stands as the better of the two by far.

Whether it’s the elegant, dragonfly-winged airships, the mobile, earth-churning capital of the bad-guy Zodangans, the six-limbed, tusky Tharks, or the hulking “white apes” (albino Kongs with a few extra fists and rancor faces), there is barely a moment of John Carter that fails to visually impress. Technically, it’s Avatar’s equal.

And Stanton scores highly where you may have imagined he’d most obviously falter: with the (so to speak) humans. Taylor Kitsch has much to prove this year, and he’s passed his first test in the multiplex arena. He displays a chiselled charisma that serves him well, especially in his exchanges with Lynn Collins. Her polymath princess is both scientist and warrior as well as space-bikini-wearing hottie, and Collins convinces on all counts (even when uttering such doozies as, “This entire structure runs on ninth-ray isolates!”), while inevitably going weak-kneed over the nipple-baring alien dude who, through the empowering nature of the Barsoomian atmosphere, is capable of some truly astounding thrusts.

Where the film stumbles, though, is with its action. It’s hard to pinpoint a standout set-piece, and every battle feels rushed. Unlike a Cameron or Peter Jackson, Stanton neglects to ramp it up and deliver the beats, as if he’s afraid too much smash-bang will spoil the story. We could easily have lived without the pre-credits exposition, or the subplot involving J. C.’s nephew, Edgar Rice Burroughs (yeah, really), back on Earth, and seen that time given to the climactic battle. The struggle for a planet’s destiny should really feel a little less like a Mos Eisley riot.


Verdict
Stanton has built a fantastic world, but the action is unmemorable. Still, just about every sci-fi/fantasy/superhero adventure you ever loved is in here somewhere.


Reviewed by Dan Jolin

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for John Carter
Empire Star Rating

So much wrong ... is it really the same Pixar?

Got round to seeing this recently and no, its flop was not unjustified. Firstly, the script is conspicuously a Pixar script and by that I mean the characters talk like cartoons. Should have adjusted the tone for live action, guys. The production design is overdone in the way that screams 'we don't how to do proper Sci-Fi Fantasy so we'll put extra limbs on everything.' In fact It's both underdone and overdone. They've deigned the shit out of things that should feel familiar, but then oversimplif... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Nicky C at 12:38, 23 July 2013 | Report This Post


Big old pile of crap

The acting by the Lynn Collins and Taylor Kitsch was absolutely bloody awful ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by chris wootton at 10:47, 18 March 2013 | Report This Post


Good film

Shame Disney messed up by only showing it in 3D. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by rcrofty7 at 18:15, 04 December 2012 | Report This Post


AVATAR IT AIN'T.......

This film feels like it was made about 30 years too late. Burroughs may well be one of the prime historical inspirations behind all modern SF films and literature, but now because Lucas, Spielberg, Cameron etc, etc, have all beaten him to the cinematic punch, John Carter turns out to be a very, very average movie indeed. Not too difficult to see why audiences didn’t really buy into this either. There’s too many characters to keep track of, a so so plot , a cookie cutter leading man a... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ROTGUT at 18:58, 26 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Utter tosh

Sadly the makers of John Carter didn't have the sense to make a more literal adaptation of the book (including Carter being a swaggering hero of almost ridiculous proprtions, and giving the film the first person voiceover it needed to get across how lunkheaded Carter can be and knows he is and how rushing in to do the derring do often makes things worse, necessitating more derring do to put things right). The ending was changed signifcantly from the book, to quite damaging effect, and wors... More

Posted by jobloffski at 01:35, 21 October 2012 | Report This Post


Utter tosh

What started well quickly turned into a jumbled mess of slow dialogue and terrible action sequences. One of the worst scenes was a huge battle scene, which blended with slow flashbacks, totally sapping the sequence of its energy. Watched Battleship the same night and enjoyed it so much more. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by spilsburt at 21:53, 02 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: John Carter

just watch john carter on dvd & it's a great movie. on the plus side - good story, visually stunning & plenty of action and on the negative side - maybe abit too long. ... More

Posted by moviebuff73 at 23:57, 28 July 2012 | Report This Post


RE: john carter

A horrible soulless experience. ... More

Posted by TragicRomantic at 13:52, 12 July 2012 | Report This Post


RE: john carter

finally saw this the other day, not bad *** is about right... some thoughts: absolutely didn’t need the opening - itd be like if The Matrix had opened with Morpheous and Co battling the machines... Mars couldve done with looking more Marsy (as in Red Planet)....and the Lost guy wouldve been a better Carter and regarding the marketing hurting the movie - yes it really shouldve had Mars in the title - 'JC of Mars' or 'JC and the Princess of Mars' (or maybe they couldve even got away wi... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jackcarter at 13:11, 09 July 2012 | Report This Post


RE: john carter

Didn't deserve to bomb as bad as it did, but it's no lost classic either. Plotwise it didn't make a huge amount of sense, really struggles to figure out what motivated anyone beyond moving the plot along. For example the green guys , when recruted for the big battle at the end by JC nobody seems too bothered that he'd killed a whole pile of them earlier that day. The dog thingy was cute though. They missed a trick by not going for a retro feel, the ship designs etc were fantast... More

Posted by blackduck at 11:36, 09 July 2012 | Report This Post


RE: John Carter

John Carter Wow for a Disney film I was confused, really, I was honestly struggling to get my head around what was happening and all the odd names for various characters, places and creatures. This hasn't done too well it seems, and I can see why really, the character of John Carter is very original and was actually created way back in the early 1900's. From what I can gather the film is actually pretty accurate to the characters story but there is one problem, this film has simply co... More

Posted by Phubbs at 07:56, 07 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Curious and rewarding

L: superdan L: Qwerty Norris My point is, I don't believe that a $50 to $100 budget would have made any difference whatsoever to the fundamental problems of JC (hell, it might have entered the black that way), so to see the level that was spent feels shockingly cavalier, contemptibly obscene and morally wrong to me - even if it is Disney's own finance that they've wasted. suppose there's no real way of knowing if it would have looked better or worse with a much lower budget, ... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 22:20, 02 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Curious and rewarding

L: Qwerty Norris My point is, I don't believe that a $50 to $100 budget would have made any difference whatsoever to the fundamental problems of JC (hell, it might have entered the black that way), so to see the level that was spent feels shockingly cavalier, contemptibly obscene and morally wrong to me - even if it is Disney's own finance that they've wasted. suppose there's no real way of knowing if it would have looked better or worse with a much lower budget, though I don't think ... More

Posted by superdan at 21:09, 02 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Curious and rewarding

reasoning, if the US economy was in a healthier state the movie's shortcomings would be less of an issue. Or perhaps, if your economy is in the shitter you can only make a film with a large budget if it is eede a lot of money. I'm not trying to bridge the relationship between the economies of Hollywood and the western world so to speak, I was merely stating that I find it insulting to see such money invested in a rubbish film bereft of anything I would consider value for money - somethi... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 20:34, 02 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Curious and rewarding

I might have misunderstood and taken it too literally. I don't know, I just thought 2 hours was close to standard these days. ... More

Posted by superdan at 19:51, 02 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Curious and rewarding

Coming from someone who still hasn't seen it here but I do think the running time criticism is valid if found it overlong. It could have been only long 90 minutes or seven hours and a half, if it feels longer than it should be than it still is overlong. Unless I didn't misread and misunderstood your comments. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 19:43, 02 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Curious and rewarding

L: Qwerty Norris L: superdan Why does the budget matter? ecause not only do we live in precarious economic times, to see such levels of money essentially wasted (both in a creative and commerce sense) is an insult to every film-maker or producer with lots of ideas but with precious little money. y that reasoning, if the US economy was in a healthier state the movie's shortcomings would be less of an issue. Or perhaps, if your economy is in the shitter you can only m... More

Posted by superdan at 19:38, 02 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Curious and rewarding

L: superdan Why does the budget matter? ecause not only do we live in precarious economic times, to see such levels of money essentially wasted (both in a creative and commerce sense) is an insult to every film-maker or producer with lots of ideas but with precious little money. L: superdan From a moviegoer's perspective, I mean. I don't really care if it costs $250m or $25k if I'm entertained (the bit where John Carter goes ballistic and tears the crap out of a tri... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 18:46, 02 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Curious and rewarding

L: Qwerty Norris On the evidence displayed, there is also absolutely no justification for the huge budget (bigger than Cameron's With Smurfs the last rmers nd aside from the green alien thingys the likes of Willem Dafoe & Samantha Morton voice, you'll struggle to figure out where that 250 million production budget went. hy does the budget matter? From a moviegoer's perspective, I mean. I don't really care if it costs $250m or $25k if I'm entertained (the bit where John Carter goes ballist... More

Posted by superdan at 16:49, 02 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Curious and rewarding

Don't let the sympathisers fool you. It's rubbish. Not hateful or heartless rubbish, but long, boring & needlessly expensive rubbish. It may originate from the grandaddy of space opera, but the fact it took nearly or around 100 years for an adaptation to materialise is a problem as there is nothing in JC that offers a thrill or a surprise that hasn't been displayed in gersash Gordonar Warsatar ous other similar efforts. On the evidence displayed, there is also absolutely no justification for th... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 16:33, 02 April 2012 | Report This Post


Curious and rewarding

Finally got round to seeing it, the fact it's box office bomb increased the curiousity value big time. And.... it's a strange one. In some ways totally unique, in others... a reminder of how often elements of the story have been ripped off. Whoever at Disney sanctioned $200million on it must have been out of their minds on crack as this was never going to win a mass audience. It's really old-old school. A lot of it makes zero sense even it its own fantastical world, it has a bit of a humour def... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BatSpider at 23:02, 01 April 2012 | Report This Post


EXCELLENT WORTH EVERY PENNY

When I was a teenager way back in the early Seventies I read all of the John Carter of Mars books. There are a total of Eleven books. I also read all of the NARNIA books and the DUNE series aswell. and many more. The most oustanding of them all were the Martian (JOHN CARTER) series by ERB. I had always dreamed that some day Hollywood would make a film of the series. at last my dream came true and after nearly a Hundred years since when the first book was published, Hollywood delivered the go... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by shamshad at 15:35, 31 March 2012 | Report This Post


RE: John Carter

L: spamandham Looks like I was completely vindicated about this being a gigantic turkey, as it's on course to lose disney ~$200M. How the hell did this even get three stars?! ecause a film's box office does not reflect its quality. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Timon at 11:41, 29 March 2012 | Report This Post


RE: John Carter

I thought the effects were of a high standard and enjoyed the battle scenes. however other than that I found the film quite unmemorable and I became restless part way through and no longer cared about the conclusion...which is unusual for me. The only bit that will stay in my mind is the delightful 'Woola' the loyal creature (?) which follows JC everywhere. That made me smile and made the film a bit more bearable. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by yazoo88 at 11:37, 29 March 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Turd

Well I quite enjoyed it, and it certainly had more charm than the likes of Clash Of The Titans or Avatar. The acting was fine, the effects were great and I thought the score was good too. There were some things I found confusing (like if John Carter is so strong and good in a fight how come he keeps getting captured?), but as simple cinema entertainment it was well worth a couple of hours. It's a shame so many seem to be reveling in it as a bomb, it deserves better than that. Solid 3 stars... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by superdan at 12:26, 26 March 2012 | Report This Post


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