The embargo date has been lifted for Disney’s John Carter, as the critics are flushing in from all over to chime in on what they thought about the film by director Andrew Stanton (WALL-E, Finding Nemo). I’m hoping that Disney’s marketing hasn’t tainted the film that much to deter people from watching this movie.
I didn’t love John Carter, but I liked it a whole lot. What it gets right it gets right with wonderful gusto. And what it doesn’t get right… well, there are about ten more books to adapt, and I’d like to see Andrew Stanton have another go at it. I think next time he could do it perfectly.
And for the record, this film should have been called John Carter and the Princess of Mars – not only is that title more evocative, but it gives Dejah Thoris, the best cinematic female genre character in decades, her proper due.
Coming Soon – 9/10
If I had to describe “John Carter” to the uninitiated, I’d tell them to imagine a film that was a cross between “Star Wars,” “Flash Gordon” and “Avatar” with dashes of “Superman” and “Conan the Barbarian” mixed in. I’m a major Star Wars nut, but I have no problem saying that “John Carter” was closer to a good Star Wars movie than any of the prequels. It had the right mix of action, humor, aliens, spaceships, and magic that gave it a Star Wars feel. What’s great is that Stanton made a film that will speak to fans of pulp and sci-fi, yet this story in no way alienates general audiences. And what’s even more mind-blowing is that Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote this 100 years ago. All those other films I mentioned should probably thank Burroughs for the original inspiration.
Den of Geek – 4/5 Stars
Under the watchful eye of Pixar’s Andrew Stanton (Wall-E, Finding Nemo), John Carter is epic in scale, lavish in its detail, and surprisingly funny – Stanton displays a certain reverence to his source material, but remembers to have fun with it. There’s an innocent charm to John Carter that recalls old serials like Flash Gordon, or Ray Harryhausen’s Greek mythological epics like Jason And The Argonauts. This is an aspect frequently missing in modern cinema, where even traditional heroes have to possess some dark, brooding motivation for their actions. What John Carter does have in its favour, however, is charm, and lots of it. Its fight scenes are well shot and at times extraordinary. Its effects are handsome and seamlessly integrated – the thought that the Tharks were mere digital creations didn’t even cross my mind until the final credits rolled, which is an achievement itself – and Andrew Stanton’s creativity, humour and expertise are apparent from beginning to end.
Digital Spy – 4/5 Stars
The likes of Dominic West, Mark Strong and Ciaran Hinds lend gravitas to the feud between Martian clans, while Tharks, the planet’s four-armed, tusked underclass, are brought to life with cutting-edge performance capture technology. Willem Dafoe and Samantha Morton both deliver emotive turns as warrior Tars Tarkas and his daughter Sola.
John Carter may not rack up the box office bucks to make a sequel a formality, but on this evidence we’d be very intrigued by a return trip to Barsoom.
“John Carter” may be hobbled by one of the worst marketing campaigns in recent memory, but in that way, it is the opposite of many of Disney’s latest event films. I thought they did a great job selling both “TRON: Legacy” and “Alice In Wonderland,” but I hated the movies themselves. This time, I think they’ve fumbled the sales pitch completely, but if you’re willing to look past that and go the theater, “John Carter” is transporting in exactly the way I want my escapism to be. Richly imagined, robustly performed, and directed with the evident enthusiasm of someone who’s been dreaming about Barsoom his whole life, “John Carter” is a gem.
IGN – 4/5 Stars or 8/10
The film isn’t entirely perfect, though. The film continues the modern trend in cinema of having characters travel to faraway places and then back again just for the sake of expository information, and the film is in such a hurry to get to its great ending that it leaves the final battle feeling a bit limp and without a feeling of closure.
Those minor problems aside, John Carter is wondrous, exciting and emotional entertainment that ends on exactly the right note. It’s that rare epic that’s not only visually spectacular, but full of heart. My hope is that it will be successful enough to warrant the sequels it so rightly deserves, for it would definitely be a shame not to return to Barsoom again in the near future.
The John Carter Files – 9/10
Star Wars, Avatar, and John Carter. That’s the cinema progression although by now everyone knows that the 100 year old John Carter books by Edgar Rice Burroughs came first and inspired both Lucas and Cameron. Let’s get a few confessions out of the way: First, I’m a devotee of the books. I read them all as a kid and John Carter of Mars is a precious thing to me, something I’ve waited to see on the screen for more decades than I care to count. This means I’m predisposed to want to like this film and I’m hoping for the best; but it also means I will be demanding of the film-makers because I know how extraordinary it ought to be. So what has Andrew Stanton given us? My consider answer after viewing the film and digesting it for two days: He has given us a gem that shines bright and true with a light all its own. Stanton has taken the grandmaster’s story but he’s made it his own and it’s fresh and emotionally stirring in ways that are unexpected and make you want to see it a second time, and soon. The gem is not without a few rough edges and I will get to them over the course of this review — but make no mistake the core brilliance is unmistakable, undeniable, and richly satisfying.
SFX – 4/5 Stars
Taylor Kitsch is a slightly bland John Carter, though occasionally his dour John Wayne delivery hits the target, and he perks up as the film reaches its climax, when he looks like he’s on a promise. And what a promise. Lynn Collins’s feisty Dejah Thoris is the best kick-ass sci-fi princess since Leia, and she looks stunning too with her Martian tattoos. Mark Strong as chief baddie is, well, Mark Strong as a chief baddie, which is fair enough.
All in all, this is one trip to Mars you won’t regret.
The so-so review:
Total Film – 3/5 Stars
Get your ass to Mars? A handsome new sci-fi adventure that feels rather familiar. Enjoyable enough while it lasts, John Carter is big on ambition and disappointingly short on action.
And the negative one:
Fan The Fire – 2/5 Stars
There is plenty to like here, it’s just that we only tend to see it in flashes, and what’s good is far too frequently let down by an awkward script (poor Lynn Collins gets most of the tongue-twisty dialogue), some flat performances and a dearth of characters to really root for. The film’s rushed but actually fairly satisfying ending helps round things off adequately enough, but comedy dogs and some strong CGI can only carry this adventure so far.