Mysteriously transplanted to Mars, Civil War vet John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) discovers a planet inhabited by 3 metre tall barbarians and in the midst of war. Finding himself a prisoner, he escapes and tries to find his way back to Earth. However, he becomes distracted, after meeting the beautiful Heliumite princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) who has been promised in a marriage of convenience to Sab Than (Dominic West), the villainous leader of the Zodangans. Only John Carter can save the princess and the planet.
Review by Louise Keller:
The credentials of this spectacular 3D fantasy adventure based on sci-fi pulp fiction writer Edgar Rice Burroughs' classic 1912 novel, A Princess of Mars far outweigh its execution, by an overtly complicated plot that works against its imaginative reality. Best known as the creator of Tarzan, Burroughs first introduced his space-hero protagonist John Carter through his Barsoom novels; Barsoom being his name for the planet Mars.
The story traces the adventures of American Civil War veteran John Carter (Kitsch), who is transported to Mars in mysterious circumstances, while prospecting for gold in Arizona. In the midst of 3 metre tall green barbarians with 6-limbs, 2-tusks and an aggressive demeanour, he becomes involved in a war between humanoid red Martians: the Heliumites vs the Zodagans. He also discovers gravity changes have given him super-powers, offering opportunities for eye-boggling stunts.
Kitsch, with his square-jaw good-looks and rippling muscles is well cast as the heroic Carter, who elects to save the beautiful, feisty princess Dejah (Collins) from a marriage of convenience to the villainous Sab Than (West). Mark Strong is solid as the manipulating, evil Therns leader who morphs into other forms at will.
It's a tale of good versus evil with non-stop swordplay and a slew of special effects as ships fly, wild beasts stampede and Carter faces off against gargantuan white apes. Some of the ideas may be wonderful, but there is such chaos on screen, it is hard to decipher what is going on much of the time. If you are not familiar with the Burroughs' Barsoom reality, it is easy to be confused by the many characters, races and tribes, although I did warm to Woola, a fat slug-like puppy dog with a green tongue and playful disposition.
It's a pity the talented Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo), who co-wrote the screenplay, has elected this as his live action directing debut. Avatar, this is not.
First published in the Sun-Herald
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JOHN CARTER (M)
CAST: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe, Samantha Morton, Thomas Haden Church, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy, Bryan Cranston, Polly Walker
PRODUCER: Lindsey Collins, Jim Morris, Colin Wilson
DIRECTOR: Andrew Stanton
SCRIPT: Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews, Michael Chabon (story A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dan Mindel
EDITOR: Eric Zumbrunnen
MUSIC: Michael Giacchino
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Nathan Crowley
RUNNING TIME: 132 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Walt Disney
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 8, 2012