It took a century, but “John Carter” is finally, actually, for real heading to theaters. The result is an inconsistent, structurally over-packed and complicated, but ultimately worthy trip to theaters.
Of all the reasons to go see “John Carter” this weekend, here are the five that stick out to us.
Taylor Kitsch said it himself that this is a make-or-break year for him. With two major releases, “John Carter” and “Battleship,” resting largely on his shoulders, his future as a leading man could live or die with these movies. But based solely on his acting ability here, his record stands at one for one. While a lot of Carter shares a common ground with Kitsch’s “Friday Night Lights” character Tim Riggins, the persona works and will ultimately be the one that defines his career. And that’s fine by us. He handles even the most awkward Barsoom dialogue deftly and never fully shakes off the incredulous charm of Riggins. Some might call it one-note, but we call it personality.
One of the most frequent compliments coming out of critic screenings was for the female lead, Lynn Collins, who stars as the princess of Mars Dejah Thoris. Collins brings a lot of personality and strength to the type of role that typically lacks both. Dejah can handle herself on the battlefield and holds a few graduate degrees, but when it comes down to it, she reverts to damsel in distress mode. Collins, however, never falters and proves herself compulsively watchable in a role that will hopefully lead to bigger things for the actress.
The Back Story
People have been trying to make a “John Carter” movie since the 1930s. Now that someone’s finally made the thing, the least you can do is see it. But in all seriousness, the original Edgar Rice Burroughs stories inspired an untold number of similar science fiction and fantasy works, movies, books and films that you most likely know and love. Generations of fans have fallen in love with the Barsoom stories, and while the “John Carter” film may not bring anything terribly new to the table visually, it’s fascinating to see the origin story of an entire genre.
When “Carter” works, it works well, and one of the biggest strengths of the film is the action sequences and set pieces. For a first-time live-action director, Andrew Stanton has quickly made a case for himself as a serious filmmaker, capable of a lot more than Pixar movies. The film looks beautiful, and there’s no mistaking “John Carter” as anything but a movie directed by a skilled filmmaker. The action thrills but never overstays its welcome, packed into tight sequences that never feel gratuitous. Simple things like a clear sense of timing set the actual production of the film above most other big releases.
In a time when most big budget films are “safe bets” made because of a “built-in audience,” you simply have to respect a film that combines a fantasy premise and a complex plot (arguably, to a fault) and never once apologizes for just how geeky it is. Structurally, “John Carter” has serious flaws that significantly lessen the overall effectiveness of the film, but its earnestness and ambition are more than enough to entertain you, even for the bloated two hour and twenty minute running time.
Are you going to see “John Carter” this weekend? Let us know in the comments below and on Twitter!