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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Movie Review: John Carter of Mars

John Carter of Mars  $$$ ½

132 Minutes
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willem Dafoe
Director: Andrew Stanton

            You probably wouldn’t classify me as a fan-boy. If I read a novel or watch a movie and enjoy it I’ll go back for seconds. I’m not much for endless repeats of a story or to consume any and all related goods.
            That was not the case for the John Carter series when I was a youth. My love for the books went beyond just reading them multiple times and then dreaming of being Randy Lindsay of Mars. I had a huge four foot by six foot poster of Barsoom hanging on my wall. It was the only decoration in my room until I hit the black-light phase in my later teens. I collected comics and anything else that I came across that dealt with the series. My obsession drove me to construct a Barsoomian chess game out of a cardboard box and decorated with color markers. (I still have the game.)
            Last week, several of my friends invited me to watch the movie with them. We talked about it afterwards and I discovered that I was not alone in my love for this story. (Although, I definitely had collected a few items that no one else had been able to find.) Edgar Rice Burroughs created a wonderful setting and it is way past time for someone to turn it into a decent movie.

            John Carter’s (Taylor Kitsch) story takes place in the later part of the 1800’s. It begins with a stranger following John through the city streets. John sends a telegram to his nephew Edgar “Ned” Burroughs and then mysteriously dies. When Edgar arrives he finds that he is the heir to his uncle’s fortune, a bizarre set of instructions as to the disposition of his corpse, and a journal that for Ned’s eyes only.
            The journal describes John’s travels in the previous years. After the Civil War, he heads out west to mine for gold. While fleeing a band of hostile Indians he takes refuge in a cave and is mystically transported to Mars. Due to the heavier gravity on Earth he is able to leap incredible distances and kill foes with a single mighty blow from his fists.
            Soon after arriving on Mars, John encounters the fierce fifteen-foot tall, four-armed, green Martians led by Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe). Tars is impressed with John’s jumping ability and brings him into the tribe.
            John learns the Barsoomian language and then meets Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) when he tries to rescue her during an airship battle. Dejah quickly shows him that she can take care of herself. When the action slows down a bit we find out that Mars is a dying planet and that Dejah has discovered technology that will allow her to save the planet.  Dejah tries to recruit John to her cause, but he is reluctant to play the role of sword for hire.
            This is one of my all time favorite properties and everyone in the group agreed that Disney did a pretty good job with it. Even so, I didn’t feel that it deserved a rating of four movie bucks. This is definitely a big screen film. However, for anyone who isn’t a mega-fan of the series it can wait for a matinee showing. Besides, all the big John Carter fans have already gone to see it. I had planned to take my children to see it, or my wife, or anyone just so I have an excuse to see it a second time.
            The story line deviates from the novels. Which is nothing new, few films stay true to the original story. What did surprise me was that we were more than okay with the changes.  It felt like John Carter material that we hadn’t seen/read before rather than an alteration to the original story. Well, except for John Carter himself. In order to have a rewarding character arc John is a little more of a rogue than he is in the novels.
            Overall, I thought it was an excellent movie experience.

            Randy’s Rating System

$$$$   = Full Price    See this movie right away and pay full price, it’s worth it.
$$$     = Matinee      Catch this as a matinee or other discounted showing.
$$        = Discount     Wait until this movie reaches a discount theater near you.
$          = Rental         Wait until this movie reaches your local video rental outlet.
0          = No Sale       Don’t see this movie at any price.


  1. Very interesting review, Randy. I had never heard of John Carter until the movie. It sounds like something my husband will watch (when it comes out on dvd). He doesn't go to the movies. :)

    1. Thank you. Burroughs got most of his recognition for Tarzan. He wrote a few westerns, did a series about a prehistoric world at the center of the Earth, had a series based on Venus and a few more divergent titles.

      I think this is something kids, especially boys, will like as well.

  2. This movie has had a lot of hype. Good to know that you think it's worth it.

    1. Yes it did. I think that is because most people are not familiar with the John Carter series. As much as I love this story maybe the tale of a heroic Earthman falling in love with a Martian Princess and saving a dying world is too nerdish for your average movie-goer. However, for anyone who has a nerdy side, I think they will enjoy this movie.

  3. I'm definitely going to see this at the theatre. Just have to find the time! Thanks for the review.

    1. I think that's a good choice. Hope you enjoy it.

  4. I'm hearing only good about this one from everyone who's seen it, but I'm also hearing that it's not doing so well. That's unfortunate. My husband loved the movie! I haven't had the chance to see it yet.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the 2012 #atozchallenge! Twitter: @AprilA2Z

    1. The sales numbers look pretty good, just not compared to the amount they spent to make and promote it. I think the problem is that they put in an overly large budget promoting it because it is a relatively unknown property. Of course, I am doing my small part to get people to go see the movie and help change that situation.

  5. We'll definitely watch it although it'll be on DVD.

    1. I think you'll be glad you did.