John Carter - Review

Don't listen to people saying: "uuuh John Carter. That stupid Prince of Persia, Avatar, Lord of the Rings, Conan wannabe rip-off." F those people. John Carter is basically the first superhero EVER. The original novels of "John Carter of Mars" are actually about 100 years old and were written by Tarzan-author Edgar Rice Burroughs. I admit that before hearing about the actual film, i had no idea (because John Carter novels aren't as popular in Europe as in America). But through friends and the lovely interwebs i informed myself and it actually stunned me that i was such an ignorant idiot not knowing about this incredibly relevant icon in sci-fi. Had i known this earlier, i would have been even more hyped for the first movie adaptation of "John Carter".

The plot:
Civil War vet John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is transplanted to Mars, where he discovers a lush, wildly diverse planet whose main inhabitants are 12-foot tall green barbarians. Finding himself a prisoner of these creatures, he escapes, only to encounter Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins), Princess of Helium, who is in desperate need of a savior.

The story of "John Carter" is basically an adaptation of the first Carter Novel in the Barsoom series entitled "A Princess of Mars". Due to the fact that i am an idiot and didn't read that novel, i can't say anything about the movie's truth to the source material. But anyway...

The movie's plot is basically pretty simple and not something entirely new. But it's not like the movie tries to be anything more. "John Carter" is a simple entertaining science-fiction story, that is NOT a rip-off of Avatar or Star Wars Episode 2. In fact, the directors of both movies admitted that they were heavily influenced by the John Carter of Mars novels for their movies!
With that said, let's get the rip-off theme completely out of the way!

The biggest strength of John Carter is the depiction of Mars/Barsoom and their inhabitants. It's beautiful sci-fi all around. With aliens having their own culture, strange orders and rules in their clans, interesting vehicles, creatures etc. It's a nice fresh take on Mars-themed sci-fi (Mars has air etc.).
With that said, despite the main story being pretty routine with "an outsider becoming the planets new hope and saving the entire planet", it avoids becoming boring thanks to the fascinating world and characters that it involvs.
PLUS, notice that John Carter is basically a superhero movie: on Mars he is able to jump incredible heights and gains incredible strength (due to facts that i won't spoil). He is just like Clark Kent who has powers as Superman BUT ONLY on earth (because of sunlight) and not on his homeworld Krypton!

Casting Taylor Kitsch as John Carter was a great choice. It's definitely better to cast a low-radar actor like Kitsch in the title role and get some new faces into the Hollywood spotlight. He does great as John Carter: first he is an unlikable outlaw only interested in gold, but later we find out more about his broken persona and how he basically is a good person at heart when given the chance. It's nice and simple character development and he is definitely a sympathatic lead.
Lynn Collins as princess Dejah is more or less cast for her looks. But well, the princess is supposed to be hot so it's ok. She does ok but nothing too extraordinary. She is basically the standard rebelling princess that we've seen about a hundred times already but she does her job concidering the story.
Mark Strong as the main villain Matai is definitely not taken enough advantage of in terms of acting talent. He is a good villain. It's just that i wished he wouldn't talk in that monotone voice the whole time. But maybe it's a sign of his constant calmness even during chaotic situations. With that said, he does ok but it's a forgettable performance.

The alien race called the "Thark" are probably the most interesting creatures of the film. They heavily remind one of the Na'vi from "Avatar" regarding their height etc. but their character and behaviour is very different. They are religious and loving but also brutal and wild.
I'd love to talk about the other creatures of Mars as well but i don't want to spoil them for you.

The dialogue is where the movie occasionally has some problems. Often the dialogue feels pretty dull and uninspired. There are scenes in which John Carter accepts being on Mars, his powers, fighting for the Thark, etc. a bit too easy. Also there are some moments in which i was really doubting princess Dejah's awareness of being an important responsible part of Helium's fate (due to some of her weird decisions).

The action is pretty well done! It's well placed and the movie is not too full of it. And yet when an action scene happens, it's impact is big enough to entertain and make up for the dialogue-heavy moments. It's just a good balance.
Yet still, some might argue that the final battle came off a bit too short.

And another thing: If you got the chance, watch the movie in 2D. The 3D in "John Carter" is very unimpressive and far not worth the higher ticket price. The 3D actually turned out to be more annoying than appealing in my opinion.

Overall, "John Carter" is a simple story that you can tell has been written about a 100 years ago. A story about Mars being habitable and having aliens and stuff would be laughed off the theaters nowadays. But due to its very old source material (and therefore the limited knowledge about Mars), "John Carter" kind of gets a deserved free pass.
To be fair it IS a basic story. It IS very simple. It IS filled with some ideas that have already been done in other movies (INSPIRED BY JOHN CARTER!). And it IS not perfect. BUT....i can't argue with beautifully told sci-fi giving me a good entertaining time and a good feel after i leave the theater. Not every movie has to be a complex milestone like "Matrix" or "Blade Runner".

So everyone calling "rip-off!" on this one should go do his homework right now and inform himself about the source material, so that he can shut up, accept, and enjoy even more the first great movie about the first superhero ever "John Carter".

Final Verdict: 7 out of 10


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