<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Andrew Stanton. Starring Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Dominic West, Mark Strong, Willem Dafoe.
Someone told me that the story of this film, decades in the making, inspired Star Wars and Avatar. Yes, but this ‘original’ too late, too dull and too vacuous to even be counted among those popular films.
Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote this series of books called the Barsoom (his name for Mars) novels starting with The Princess of Mars way back in 1917. The heroic Earth man from the Civil War times transported to Mars was called John Carter. This character appeared in the novels, a brief stint in comics, TV shows and some not-so-popular films. A blockbuster has been running the rounds of various production houses and directors over the past decade or so but it ended up with Disney who finally gave it a go. Unfortunately, people like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg beat them to the premise a long time ago.
What John Carter (of Mars) – they couldn’t even get the title, so it’s John Carter in the beginning and then John Carter of Mars at the end credits – does is show us the same old saga of fish-out-of-water hero in another timeline on another planet fighting a war that is not his. In this case, John (Taylor Kitsch) is a reluctant warrior as back home in Virginia he chooses to hunt for gold in caves rather than fight the Civil War against the native Indians. On Mars, he has more motivation since a beautiful princess called Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) wearing very little wants him to fight right behind her (the view must be nice from there).
There’s one strange alien race of green, fourhanded tribals called Tharks (similar to Avatar’s blue men) and two races of humanoids called Heliums (or is it Heli-ites?) and Zondangans. Then there’s an immortal set of beings called Thern’s lead by Matai Shang (Mark Strong) who are manipulating all the Martians for their own purposes. I won’t get into more names because they’re unpronounceable and after a while I didn’t know who was fighting whom.
There’s a scene in there where John rides a hover-bike that will immediately remind you of Luke Skywalker trying to ride one of the Storm Trooper’s hover-bikes in Star Wars. So even though you know it was inspired from John Carter, you also know that Star Wars has done it all a million times more brilliantly and classically than this film.
Some scenes like when John Carter vanquishes a whole horde of attacking Tharks without batting an eye-lid are ridiculous. Because then he’s chained to a rock and can’t get out of that! Oh and later he goes back to the Tharks who attacked him to seek their help and is captured. The princess is wearing this skimpy warrior outfit through the film and then all of a sudden she’s wearing a skimpy outfit for her wedding and she says it’s, ‘vulgar’! Sorry, they just didn’t think this story through.
The acting is banal, the grandeur is empty, the effects are alright and the story is just plain zzzzzz… And it’s all surprising from a director (Andrew Stanton) who gave us Finding Nemo, Toy Story, Wall-E and Monsters Inc. Maybe he’s better with animation.
Check out the trailer top, right with an introduction by director Andrew Stanton.