John Carter: Movie Review

"John Carter" starts off blazing fast to the point that we had a hard time keeping up and understanding what was going on-screen. Actually, that's the biggest problem for "John Carter". It had a huge tendency to blow by important details with a bias towards action. It's very crucial for a scifi film to really explain the world it imagines to the audience or else the experience is lost. Fortunately, "John Carter" does settle down a bit and this is when we found ourselves captivated by the world of Barsoom and its inhabitants. While it may not be as grandiose and as flawless as "Avatar", "John Carter" ends up with a mythology that we truly enjoyed to the point that we even look forward to another watch or even a sequel perhaps.

Former Confederate Captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) stumbles upon a mysterious cave of gold in which he sees a spider-like etching on its walls. When a human-like being suddenly appears and attacks him, John Carter is able to kill his attacker but is mysteriously transported to the planet of Barsoom (known as Mars to humans) when he grabs the glowing medallion the man was holding. John Carter soon finds himself in the middle of a conflict between the various inhabitants of the planet, whose leaders include Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) of the local Barsoomian tribes, Prince Sab Than (Dominic West) of Zodanga and Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) of Helium. John Carter takes it upon himself to save Barsoom and its people from a growing threat more powerful than any being on Mars or even on Earth.

"John Carter" is a pretty good scifi/action film. For us, it holds its own with its rendering of the Martian enigma. The film does struggle with its approach slightly leaning on action rather than proper pacing, introduction and story-telling. it never gives the time to explain anything or everything and tries to push the audience to just accept what it gives out - which is a bitter pill to swallow at times. The first hour or so is probably the worst offender as the film never defining properly the history, beliefs and inhabitants of Barsoom and we found ourselves with a lot of questions that never really gets answered. It's frustrating and it does affect how we got involved with the film overall. "John Carter" does redeems itself in the final few scenes when it puts substance ahead of the thrill. Another thing is the semi-flat acting from Taylor Kitsch and the whole lot of actors. It's not bad acting but it's nothing memorable either. Visually, "John Carter" was a bit dull and lifeless not with its barren desert landscape but who could blame the creators? It's probably the Martian setting at fault here. On the plus side, the thing we loved about "John Carter" are the various Barsoomian characters. Yes, the acting was sub-par but it still presented unique Barsoomian characters that we loved so much especially the Tharks.

Overall, "John Carter" feels like a mish-mash of classic scifi films. There's a mix of "Star Wars" and "Avatar" (and probably even more) but it is not as detailed or as beautiful as those to be quite frank. It's a jack-of-all-trades that does enough to warrant a sequel or even a franchise. It is indeed enjoyable but never excels for us to consider it a classic.

Rating: 3 reels

Why you should watch it:
- the characters are the key factor that makes this film more interesting than it should be
- the action sequences are short but packs a punch
- fast-paced, the film never bogs down

Why you shouldn't watch it:
- the film lacks the patience to properly introduce and explain Barsoom
- fast-paced to the point that it feels convoluted and messy at times
- the acting was sub-par
- visually, it was not stunning at all (even the costumes and set pieces failed to impress us)

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