By now we all aware that John Carter will be known as the largest flop in history (for now), but this is unfortunately undeserved. John Carter might have not been the best movie of all time but it was a sincere attempt to recreate the wonder upon which early science fiction writers looked upon the sky, and to breathe life into a retro-futurism world. Unfortunately for Disney, and any fan of late-Victorian pulp fiction, the result is somewhat clumsy and despite 21st century special effects, it still feels antiquated.
Perhaps I am biased. If you read my recent Three Musketeers review, you will know that I am one of those fans of early pulp (AKA dime-novels). John Carter doesn’t quite capture the naivety of swashbuckling anywhere near as well as Anderson’s Three Musketeers, but it is still a movie about a confederate soldier on Mars, fighting alongside four armed Martians, and rescuing a human-looking princess from a walking city of doom. If that doesn’t pick your pulpy interest, what will?
Like many sci-fi tales of old, John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is essentially more western-fantasy than hard science fiction. It feels like a little kid playing around with cowboys and aliens, unlike the movie with that name, which actually deserved to flop as badly as John Carter did. The hero here is a Civil War veteran, who while escaping from the law, is mysteriously transported to a barren desert world that we later learn is actually the planet Mars. This Mars is inhabited by three warring factions who, for simplicity sake, we will refer to as the Whites, the Reds, and the Greens. The Whites and the Reds look human although they bleed green, while the Greens (AKA Tharks), are giant four armed tusked creatures from which every sci-fi alien is based. It does not take long form John Carter to fall for the fiery beauty of red princess (Lynn Collins) and be recruited into the war.
Kitsch and Lynn, as the main actors, are exactly what they need to be for a film like this; he is chiseled, she is beautiful, and they can both wield a sword while keeping a straight face. Director Andrew Stanton (Wall-e, Finding Nemo) executed his first live action film well, but there are still a few mishaps here and there. The action feels cluttered, and the editing isn’t as smooth as would have been in a movie by action veterans. But, it is a solid attempt, and wouldn’t put me off from seeing another live action film by Stanton.
Overall John Carter did everything it needed to do; except earn revenues. And well that is kind of important too. Once it comes out in digital release formats, I recommend checking it out. Perhaps in today’s time-shifted viewing John Carter can earn some life after death through DVD and iTunes sales.