Although admittedly it’s a LOT to take in, “John Carter” nevertheless rises above the learning curve of new alien races, names, places and such to be a very enjoyable ride. Much of that must be attributed to the engrossing dedication of its two leads to the project, the marvelous direction and special effects, and the surprising amount of heart and humor in the script. Although it could have simply been a bloated special effects vehicle, “John Carter” turns out to be a well-balanced mix of action, sci-fi, comedy and romance that not only satisfies, but leaves you wanting to see what will happen in the inevitable sequel.
Taylor Kitsch plays it close to his vest, but he’s still an endearing center to this epic space saga. Lynn Collins forever secures her place in both geek and girlgeekdom by breaking every stereotype of Princess you’ve heard, and being the new It Girl for all things both strong and feminine. Her Princess of Mars is beautiful, intelligent, and strong enough to not only kick ass and take names, but to admit when she’s scared and fall passionately in love. Both leads are eminently watchable and have good charisma together, even amongst the possible distraction of a sprawling CGI world.
I also enjoyed the twists on the standard outsider-is-adopted story, wherein some mistrusting bad guys stay that way until the bitter end instead of coming around to a big group hug with the outworlder eventually. Although some much-ballyhooed battle scenes end up a touch underwhelming considering, the secret weapon of “John Carter” ends up being not its action or effects anyway (although there is plenty of each), but its humor and heart. It’s funny in legitimate ways, even when Kitsch must almost do some slapstick upon discovering he’s a bit of a superman on Mars. And in borrowing a bit from “Somewhere in Time,” “Carter” proves as touching as it is funny with a romance that spans space and time. Overall, a departure for Disney, but a welcome one.
Overall Score for “John Carter” from Rich Bonaduce: B+
“John Carter” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action.
Directed by:Andrew Stanton
Written by:Andrew Stanton (screenplay), Mark Andrews (screenplay), Michael Chabon (screenplay), Edgar Rice Burroughs (story “A Princess of Mars”)