Josh Wilding Reviews: JOHN CARTER 3D

Has the director of Wall-E managed to successfully make the transition to live action? Well, the film has divided critics so far, but here is my take on the adaptation of the 100-year-old novel by Edgar Burroughs Rice in this spoiler-free review.

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By Josh Wilding - 3/9/2012


John Carter is boring. Admittedly that's a statement you don't often read about even the worst blockbuster, but there's just no two ways about it. With an impressive résumé which includes superb Pixar movies Finding Nemo and Wall-E, you might have been fooled into thinking that director Andrew Stanton's first live action feature would be as impressive as Brad Bird's Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Nope. John Carter fails on nearly every conceivable level. However, one area where the film is near-flawless is the CG. The Tharks (the Martian residents of the planet) all look completely convincing, while the various ships and cities look equally as impressive and stunning. Unfortunately, even the visual effect aren't entirely flawless. Before he ends up on Mars (sorry, Barsoom) John Carter finds himself in the Arizona desert. Apart from a few rocky landmarks scattered throughout the environment, there's very little to distinguish the two locations. The Red Planet just ends up looking a bit dull. The 3D is also a complete and utter waste of time, failing to add any real depth and generally coming across as lifeless as it does in most other conversions these days.

There's not a lot to say about the story because there isn't much of one. John Carter isn't a particularly interesting protagonist and apart from finding out early on that he clearly doesn't want to serve in the Confederacy, the writers give us very little reason to actually care about him. Instead, he sort of wanders from one situation to the next in a quest to get back home to claim some gold and get rich. Thankfully, Taylor Kitsch manages to inject a fair bit of likeability into him in a performance which ultimately fails to cement his leading man status but does get him part of the way there. "The Princess of Mars" (Dejah Thoris) is brought to life by Lynne Collins. However, the actress comes across as stiff for the most part and tends to look incredibly uncomfortable. Her chemistry with Kitsch is passable, but their relationship isn't anywhere near as memorable as many of those seen in various other classic sci-fi films. Dominic West doesn't have much to sink his teeth into and his performance is nowhere near as impressive as his turns in The Wire and The Awakening. Mark Strong is on surprisingly weak form once again playing a bad guy, while Ciaran Hinds shows up in his third lousy performance of the year (the other two being The Woman in Black and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance). Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston turns up for a few minutes and both Willem Dafoe and Thomas Haden Church deliver decent enough vocal performances as Tars Tarkas and Tal Hajus.

Of course, it's hard to criticise any of the actors for offering up such mediocre performances when the script gives them such uninteresting material to work with. The major problem with John Carter is that it feels like we've seen it all before (probably because we have). An arena battle which isn't anywhere near as exciting as the trailers would have you believe is lifted straight out of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones; a pursuit on a flying speeder is reminiscent of both the podrace in The Phantom Menace and Return of the Jedi's chase on Endor. An out of place lead who finds himself eventually wanting to help the locals (Avatar) and a princess who wants to get out of a forced marriage (too many movies to mention) are more clichés which will leave you keeping one eye on the screen and another on the clock. In fairness, it would be unfair to say that John Carter doesn't at least try to put its own stamp on these moments, but the fact they all feel so familiar does little to help it. Fans of the books will likely argue that it was those movies which all lifted from the Edgar Rice Burroughs (who is shoehorned into the film by way of a ridiculous cameo) novels, but that's irrelevant to the regular theatregoing audience who will find the material stale.

That's not to say it's all bad. One stand out scene sees Carter taking on countless Tharks as we simultaneously flashback to a tragic event in his past. Carter's pet Woola is an enjoyable enough CG creation that offers up a few laughs here and there. The ending is also a nice pay-off and a perfect set-up for a sequel which you probably won't want by the time the credits roll. Some are sure to find more to enjoy than others, but there's a real lack of many other truly memorable action set-pieces. The whole thing is just disappointing and while it's not fair to say that it's a BAD film, it isn't a very good one either. At times, John Carter does give us a fleeting glimpse of what could have been; a film which would have sat comfortably alongside the likes of the classic Star Wars trilogy. Sadly, what Stanton delivers is something more akin to the prequels.

The fantastic visual effects can't make up for the one dimensional characters and a mediocre script. Wherever that rumoured $250 million budget went, there's no getting around the fact that this might just be one of the biggest wastes of money in the history of cinema.




Edgar Rice Burroughs' classic tale of interplanetary adventure arrives on the big screen in this sweeping sci-fi spectacle marking the live-action debut of Oscar-winning director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL-E). Civil War veteran John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) was still haunted by the violence he witnessed on the battlefield when he inexplicably awoke on the distant planet of Barsoom (Mars). Upon learning that the inhabitants of Barsoom are bracing for a major conflict and that war appears inevitable, John finds out that love is a rare commodity on the Red Planet, and summons the courage to be the hero the Martians have been hoping for. Meanwhile, John falls under the spell of the enchanting Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins), who struggles to suppress her compassion in a society known for its warlike ways. Willem Dafoe, Samantha Morton, and Mark Strong co-star.



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58 Comments
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MarkJulian - 3/9/2012, 11:41 AM
I predict the 1-Man John Carter promo team will not be pleased lol.
spider1489 - 3/9/2012, 11:48 AM
damn reallY?, i was never excited about this movie until the early reviews were saying such great things... now this? lol well in josh i trust but im still gonna go watch it ! XD WELL WE STILL HAVE AVENGERS!!!!!
Rodimus9 - 3/9/2012, 11:49 AM
A story about a cowboy vs aliens......seen it.
PsyGuy - 3/9/2012, 11:53 AM
I thought it was pretty good... you're wayyy too harsh
CrowPirate1 - 3/9/2012, 11:53 AM
I was looking forward to it also...

DOH

Well, at least they say it has nice music to sleep through the boring parts.. aka the entire movie.

okay.. let's list actual movies anyone fell asleep at IN the theaters...

I will list Van Helsing. I fell deeply asleep in it.. and i was looking forward to that also. I mean.. ALL the universal monsters together again!!! and it started so cool.. in black and white....

then.. it continued.!! instead of having something engaging, it tried to be loud and noisy and flashy... and I fell asleep!
MassExecutions - 3/9/2012, 11:54 AM
An everybody jumped all over me for saying it might not be worthy theater money.
WesleyGibson - 3/9/2012, 11:57 AM
Not really interested in this.
Rodimus9 - 3/9/2012, 11:57 AM
JoshW@ thanks for saving me the $$$. I owe you a Jamba juice.
superotherside - 3/9/2012, 12:00 PM
Sad. I'll still watch it though, when it comes to DVD.
CBArtist - 3/9/2012, 12:00 PM
As a fan of the books, I thought it was awesome! I might actually go see it again. And I haven't seen a movie more than once in theaters since I saw the "original" Star Wars back in 1977.
soberchimera - 3/9/2012, 12:01 PM
It's disney, were you really naive enough to think this could be the next Star Wars or Lord of the Rings?
ElDarkside - 3/9/2012, 12:05 PM
Damn Josh...I'm usually right in line with your reviews. I was really looking forward to seeing this in the theatres...Not in 3D, but now I really think i should wait to DVD. I love going to see action adventure movies in the theatre becasue of the sound, seeing it 2 stories tall,etc..

Is this movie even worth going to see???

StrangerX - 3/9/2012, 12:05 PM
I will check it out tomorrow, but no in 3D.
Gmoney84 - 3/9/2012, 12:11 PM
I disagree completely with this review. I thought John Carter was a very solid film. The progression was great. The story had relevance. The characters were portrayed very well. The CGI was very impressive.

...but don't listen to me or Josh. Go see it for yourself and form your own opinion.
jessepostal - 3/9/2012, 12:15 PM
What is one mans junk is another mans treasure, people need to start looking at movies this way as well.
StrangerX - 3/9/2012, 12:16 PM
This was actually on my list to see in 3D, but after UnderWorld Awakening I really think I'm gonna stay away until TASM.
JoshWilding - 3/9/2012, 12:17 PM
As the 50/50 split between critics on Rotten Tomatoes shows, this is a movie which has really divided opinions (both WolvieCBM and Galactus loved it). I'm sure that there are plenty of you guys who will love it! With a new director and writers, I would be more than happy to see a sequel...if those estimates of it making a $100M loss are accurate though, I doubt we'll ever see it happen!
Xeriath - 3/9/2012, 12:17 PM
I've got a feeling this is going to be another Prince of Persia (box office wise) for Disney
rocky - 3/9/2012, 12:18 PM
The film was superb all around.
The people that call it boring are probably the same that would be bitching if it was non stop action.
Boring? only if you can't sit your ass still for 10 minutes and follow a story
Shaman - 3/9/2012, 12:19 PM
Anyone going into John Carter expecting a breath of fresh air is straight up shopping for paint chips to munch on. So originality aside, the only thing that ever could've made this film successful is the performances in it. And i'm sorry to say but the two leads have never came anywhere near to be impressive enough to pull it off. Sure Lynn's ass is a spectacle in and of itself but whoever thought it was enough to support an unoriginal sci-fi trilogy along side Gambit from a Wolverine movie that should never have been made (at least not in the way it was made) was flat out kidding themselves subconsciously.

Having said that, if i was able to thoroughly enjoy Prince of Persia in it's entirety i just don't see how i could ever find this film bad or boring. To each's own as usual.
jessepostal - 3/9/2012, 12:20 PM
@tea I thought that treasure was hidden in its tinyness
DCwanabe - 3/9/2012, 12:25 PM
I thought the movie was great it really took me to another world and I missed barsoom as soon as I left the theater. It was great to see the precursor to modern sci-fi. The movie had a nice simplicity and I loved the characters. Woola was awesome.
jessepostal - 3/9/2012, 12:25 PM
@tea did u buy an expensive cock ring?
Xeriath - 3/9/2012, 12:26 PM
@StrangerX avoid this film in 3D it was post converted and therefore is an extra waste of money! I use this guide to determine whether or not to see a movie in 3D and yup I will be seeing the Amazing Spider-Man in 3D because it was shot in the format

http://realorfake3d.com/
StrangerX - 3/9/2012, 12:38 PM
This is exactly why I wont be seeing Avengers in 3D. I've said this before many times. Disney doesn't know how to convert their films properly.
InFamouslyCool - 3/9/2012, 12:44 PM
all i'm seeing is that it [frick]ing sucks.
finaljustice671 - 3/9/2012, 12:48 PM
My thoughts exactly
Squaremaster316 - 3/9/2012, 12:50 PM
Midnights are at 500k.



"this films gonna crash and burn so quickly it's gonna be f***ing great."
batfan175 - 3/9/2012, 12:55 PM
it's now less than 50% on Rottentomatoes. it's a pity I already saw films like District 9, Avatar and Star Wars. the film has the problem that the source material has already been influencing pop culture for nearly a century and so the film adaptation has nothing new to offer. I believe i'll skip this one.
HelaGood - 3/9/2012, 1:02 PM
great review Josh!

i think i will skip the movie...
SotNatt - 3/9/2012, 1:04 PM
Meh.

I liked MovieBob's review more...mainly because I didn't have to read it, but you both covered plenty of the same points, so it's not difficult to imagine (as I have for some time) that John Carter really is this lacking.

I'm still going to go see it, even though I'd probably be better off just reading the books.
TheBaroness89 - 3/9/2012, 1:09 PM
I saw the matinee... I don't think we saw the same movie because I wasn't bored. Was I edge of my seat excited no. Did I feel cheated out of 6$ not in the least. If anything Lynne Collins is so hot(and I'm a chick)that 6$ to stare at her for 2 hrs was pretty good. Taylor was more than adequate and the movie itself as a whole was better than:
Clash of the Titans
Green Lantern
Ghost Rider
any Twilight flick
Random list of movies but all pop corn flicks that bored me to tears. John Carter is a decent ride for 2hrs and you get to see the 3D Avengers trailer on the big screen(that got applause from a semi packed theater).
Baroness
xXkryptoniteXx - 3/9/2012, 1:13 PM
Good review but I go to a site that actually does a harsh review and he gives it a "B" so for him giving it that way makes this movie a worthy movie to go watch. Another thing is a lot of people will have there own opinions on weather it is good or not, its your own as a individual to judge and not let anyone judge it for you.

I see people have now said I'll wait for it on DVD or not watching it at all, but remember its a faithful adaptation for what I hear from friends and from other individuals. I'll watch it because I payed for avatar and I own it this much to watch John carter, something a character that pioneered sci fi adventures. For josh saying its boring, I won't judge you for that and I'll message you if I agree with your first line in the paragraph and also if I don't. Another note @JoshWilding, for you going into the theater to watch this movie did you have high expectation since theres a word of mouth that it's good???
GlowingBall - 3/9/2012, 1:19 PM
Wait ...why am I seeing several people say that this movie isn't "original"? This movie is based off the book that ALL MODERN SCI FI TAKES PIECES FROM. The reason you think it isn't original is because the John Carter series was the grandpappy of all the sci fi you grew up watching and loving.
Nytwng77043 - 3/9/2012, 1:29 PM
Spent $11 on the 3D matinee, and fell asleep at the half way point. Expensive nap, and thought I woke up to Star Wars Ep 2.

Live and learn, I guess. Glad I'm unemployed and didn't have to take the day off from work to see it.
CharEl - 3/9/2012, 1:38 PM
Oh yeah...2001 and STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE were boring too (NOT!!!)I read reviews and if reviewers diss something it's guaranteed I'll like it.
GreyChaos13Zero - 3/9/2012, 1:39 PM
I'm sure I'll still like it, when it's out in about three months on blu-ray?)
whatevillurks - 3/9/2012, 1:41 PM
I liked it, found it more entertaining than Avatar. A more charasmatic actor who actually sounded like he was from the 19th century would have helped though. Also, the take over the universe plot of Mark Strong was left open ended. I liked the menace from Strong when he was talking about the southern U.S.
Bandrews1 - 3/9/2012, 1:42 PM
I've been hearing a lot of mixed things about this, but I'm going to keep an open mind and check it out tonight.
Ceejay - 3/9/2012, 1:43 PM
my buddy saw this last week at a press screening and we have very similar tastes and he said it was great so that's good enough for me! people who find themselves bored watching a movie simply aren't bringing any interest to the cinema to follow a narrative as far as i'm concerned. our culture has brought up too many people on popcorn cinema and short attention spans! 50/50 scores at Rottentomatoes pretty muh reflects that!
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