The Reel Deal: “John Carter”

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by Seth Childers

The fantasy and sci-fi genre have many great movies such as Avatar or the Star Wars saga, but they all owe it to a book all the way back from 1917 called “A Princess of Mars” for their inspiration. Written by Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars had a great plot, riveting sword-fights and spectacle to spare. Naturally a movie adaptation would seem inevitable, but the novel has endured somewhat of a development crisis, and other films such as Avatar have taken inspiration from the novel for their own film. Although some of its originality was lost on its way to the big screen, it is still an enjoyable and visually-stunning movie.

The film focuses on the titular character John Carter, who one day finds himself transported to Mars. The world is dying from war and chaos, and unless John can unite everyone to stand against their enemy that seeks to destroy Mars they are all doomed to extinction.

The biggest problem with John Carter is that it’s a bit confusing for those who have not read the book and are unfamiliar with the terminology and characters of the series. The movie tries its hardest, but 132 minutes can’t provide the amount of context the audience needs to understand the culture that the novel depicts.

Another issue with John Carter is that it has a lot of common clichés found in fantasy/sci-fi films today. Though not the movie’s fault, the surprises in the story are now worn out thanks to the other movies in the genre that have used them so regularly. Despite this, the movie is still very entertaining thanks to its spectacle and even its characters. The two leading actors, Taylor Kitsch and Lynn Collins, both do very well in their roles and also have great chemistry together that makes them an enjoyable pair to watch.

The story also has its interesting moments despite its familiarity. The art direction of the world of Mars is great, and the movie does a decent job of immersing you in that world. What’s even better than the art direction are the visual effects, which are stunning to say the least. The scope of the movie is massive, and with the epic battles and massive landscapes, it’s hard not to be taken with awe at how immense this movie is in scale and detail. Even the 3D is good despite being a post-converted one, and it’s used to enhance the movie rather than serving as a gimmick.

John Carter may have been a better movie if it had been released earlier, but it’s still a fun movie that provides just the right amount of old-school thrills that a lot of films are missing today. The movie is visually stunning, and the story has its fun moments. It’s a shame that the confusing intricacies of the culture and some flaws in the script and plot are there because otherwise this is a pretty solid movie. Despite this, the best way to see this movie is on the big screen. A small HDTV will simply never be able to portray the enormous scope of this film.