Saturday, March 10, 2012

Movie Review: "John Carter" (2012) (Spoilers)

Saw John Carterearlier this afternoon with a couple of friends.  Here's my review...

The Good

Most of the time, the film was entertaining.  That's the main purpose, after all, and it does that well most of the time.

I like how they made Dejah Thoris a scientist.  There need to be more heroic scientists in film these days and it adds depth to her character.

I liked how they intermixed Carter's last stand against a horde of Thark aliens with flashbacks to him returning from the Civil War to find his wife and daughter dead.  That was really well-done.

The scene where Carter defeats the white apes in the arena and then takes control of the Tharks was really well-done.  He basically echoes Tal Hajus's challenge to Tar Tarkas earlier in the film back at Tal Hajus and gets him to enter a fight he can't win.  The first scene foreshadows the second well.  And the music when he leads the Tharks soon after taking power against the city of Zodanga was good too.

There are a lot of humorous touches in the film, like when Carter leads the Tharks into Zodanga, only to find most of its army and its leader are at the city of Helium instead.  Tarkas proceeds to smack Carter in the back of the head.  The scene where Carter finds out firsthand Mars' gravity is different from that of Earth and how he initially has problems moving around is amusing.  The rather violent attempt of Colonel Powell to try to coerce Carter into joining his cavalry detachment was also funny--he's reading from a dossier about Carter and gets interrupted by repeated physical attacks, culminating in him finishing his reading in front of a jail cell with Carter in it.  The way the Tharks keep calling Carter "Virginia" is also amusing.

After Carter is transported back to Earth, his scheme to get his hands on an amulet that could take him back to Mars by pretending to have found one to attract the Therns' attention was really clever.

The Bad

Although Dejah has been praised in the reviews as being all spunky and strong and equal to John, earlier in the film she just came off as abrasive and demanding.

Also, when she's trying to persuade her father not to marry her off to Sab Than, the prince of Zodanga, she said if her father goes through with it, he loses Barsoom (Mars).  I'm not sure what exactly she meant.

The back-story of Sola and how she was (illegally) raised by her mother instead of her egg being put in a collective hatchery along with the other Tharks is hinted at and plays a role in why Tarkas treats her like he does, but in order to really get it, I had to check the Wikipedia entry.  That's a problem.

When Dejah, Carter, and Sola are set upon by Tharks soon after finding the Thern base, it's not entirely clear why they're attacking.  Earlier Hajus claims Tarkas has betrayed them when they find Dejah, Carter, and Sola had escaped, we see one of the Therns among the oncoming Tharks, and we later see Tarkas in a dungeon, so it would seem that Hajus had finally managed to seize control over Tharks with Thern aid.  However, it would be nice to have seen this on-screen.  It could be intercut with Dejah, Carter, and Sola's voyage to build suspense.

Sab Than putting himself into a position where Dejah can kill him didn't really make a lot of sense.  Their two cities have been at war for over a thousand years and he's basically bullied her father into forcing her to marry him.  One of the Therns tells him about the importance of a good, dramatic spectacle earlier, so it might tie into that, or maybe he's just a big drama queen.  And his speech where she has a sword at his throat could be better--the impression I had is that he was trying to woo her with the prospect of all they could accomplish with the combined resources of the two cities and no need for war anymore.  That could have been clearer.

Just what the Therns are doing isn't really explained.  When one of them takes Carter hostage, he explains that they don't destroy worlds, but "manage" the process of their destruction, it seems like they're parasites feeding off the dying of a planet.  However, this is never actually explained, nor do we see just how this would work.

There are some dull moments here and there.

The Verdict

A good movie to see once, but a lot of stuff really needed to be explained better.  I hope this does well in order to ensure more "pulp" stories (and so-called "planetary romances") are made into movies, since the failure of the 2011 Conan remake really wasn't helpful.  7 out of 10.


  1. Good review. Kitsch could have definitely been a little bit more charismatic but the flick still works due to amazing special effects and some really fun and exciting action. Sad thing is that this flick was made for $250 million and won’t make any of it back. Not a must-see by any means but still a good one to check out for the fun of it. Check out my review when you get the chance.

  2. Even if it doesn't make back that money at the American box office, there's still the foreign box office and DVD.

    BoxOfficeMojo said its American Friday numbers were dismal, but said word was it was making a lot of money in Russia and elsewhere.

    I'd post the link, except BOM seems to be down right now.

  3. I was oddly underwhelmed by it. I do hope it doesn't flop though, I did like it.

  4. My problem is that I probably went in with too high expectations. If I hadn't been so enthused about the film, things probably would have been better.