"John Carter" brings extraterrestrial entertainment to theaters
There seem to be a lot of anniversary movie releases lately. First, "Journey 2: The Mysterious Island" releases within a week of the birthday of Jules Verne, who penned the movie's literary inspiration. Then "The Lorax" hits theaters on what would have been Dr. Seuss' 108th.
Now we have "John Carter," a movie based on a series of sci-fi stories which debuted 100 years ago. This centennial tribute is unique, however, in that it stepped up and delivered a worthy big-screen spectacle.
The movie is based largely on author Edgar Rice Burroughs' "A Princess of Mars," the first of his novels to feature the character John Carter. In it, the former Civil War Confederate Army captain finds himself transported to Mars (Barsoom, to the natives) and in the midst of an extraterrestrial civil war between the planet's inhabitants.
"John Carter" stumbles a bit out of the gate with a lot of time-jumping exposition, but it's nothing the movie couldn't - and didn't - recover from. In fact, it's possible most of the confusion is caused by lead Taylor Kitsch's distracting voice, which starts out very Christian Bale a la "The Dark Knight." This, coupled with a playful and borderline cheesy score in the beginning, makes for a shaky first 20 minutes or so and does the rest of the film a disservice.
Once on Barsoom, the storyline does a good job of moving things along, introducing the Tharks, a race of lanky green martians, and the rival human races of Zodanga and Helium. Carter befriends Tharks Tars Tarkas and Sola (voiced by Willem Dafoe and Samantha Morton), and later, Helium princess / scientist Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins), all of whom work together to defeat the tyrannical Zodangan prince Sab Than and return Carter to Earth.
"John Carter" weaves a surprisingly layered tale with a good amount of character complexity and for the most part steers clear of major movie pitfalls. The occasional cliched or under-developed aspects are few and far between and pass quickly, leaving a final product that invokes thematic elements of "Planet of the Apes," the "Riddick" series or even the more recent "Star Wars" episodes. The visuals have the familiar, polished finish you'd expect of a Disney product, but the century-old story is the truly engaging vehicle here.
It's not a perfect film, but the plot is solid and well-adapted for a modern audience, making "John Carter" worth seeing in theaters.
Theaters and showtimes for John Carter
And the WORST movie of 2012? Most likely. The JOURNAL/SENTINEL gave it a mere 1 and 1/2 stars. When did that last happen? Years ago? Not in my memory. Stay home or see another movie.
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