John Carter (2012)—adapted from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 1917 novel A Princess of Mars—is a perfect example of why many movies with inflated budgets don’t work. The focus is on spectacle: explosions, effects, wardrobe, and computerized re-touching of actors faces and sets rather than telling a good story.
The plot is simple enough. Renegade Calvary Captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is transported to planet Mars and lands in the middle of a war. He saves Princess Dejah (Lynn Collins), fights for her people, and if you have an ounce of intelligence, you can guess what happens next.
It’s a story that’s been told thousands of times over; what makes John Carter unique, however, is that it’s never been done quite so poorly. The sequence of events is incoherent. There is no flow and character development to support the protagonist(s) choices, and thus we feel nothing for them. It doesn’t matter who wins or loses because we don’t know these people. Their pathetic conversations have no meaning and appear to be written by a five year old who thinks he or she understands adult behavior.
And of course, no Disney movie would be complete with out the degradation of the female sex. Our assertive, scientist Princess always falls short of saving herself and takes orders rather than gives them. She almost figures out a way to save her people with her scientific methods but then decides to get married instead. Don’t worry girls, you don’t need to be self-reliant! The grunting, muscle-bound neanderthal will save you.
At least the physical exploitation of the actors and actresses was even. Kitsch’s loin cloth/kilt thing left as much to the imagination as Collins’ bizarro beach wear. There truly is not one redeeming quality in this film.
The most interesting thing about the movie is its very existence. Why John Carter and why now? Similar to many movies being churned out today, the main idea is based on “the hero,” and America needs one for sure. Carter takes his independent spunk and uses it to create “peace” by killing a lot of people and aliens ultimately for his own selfish motivation. This doesn’t seem like a hero to me, yet he is portrayed as such.
I would like to see a film with an actual superhero. Perhaps someone from Mars comes to Earth and lowers gas prices, creates good stable jobs, eradicates corporate greed, and teaches us how to properly share our resources so everyone can live comfortably. My advice to you is to save some cash and skip out on John Carter. Rent the original The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) instead. It’s a masterpiece of a film with an actual hero, a heart, and a grand story.