Reviewer: Charity Bishop
This movie was an abysmal failure at the box office, in part due to the terrible marketing that left potential audiences disinterested and without the faintest idea of what the story was actually about. John Carter is not epic, but it is certainly entertaining... and unique.
Sometimes, things happen to you that no one would ever believe. John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is a scruffy ex-captain in search of gold in the years after the Civil War. While paying off his debts, he runs amuck of the local cavalry, who hopes to recruit him to serve in the ongoing struggle with the Indians in the area. Having suffered great personal loss, and with a new cynicism toward war, John Carter refuses to fight for any cause other than his own best interest. A run-in with Indians leads him into a cave, where he tousles with a strange man, grabs hold of an unusual medallion... and is transported thousands of miles into space.
Once there, Carter is caught up in the midst of a thousand year war between two civilizations, kidnapped by a tribe of alien barbarians, and temporarily rescues Princess Dejah (Lynn Collins) from a fate worse than death. She appeals to him to help save her people... but all he really wants to do is return home.
I did not expect much from this film, and in turn was pleasantly surprised. It's better than the critics and box office results would have you believe. Based on an early series of sci-fi novels, it is told in one long flashback, before we return to John Carter's nephew, who is reading his journals. A small portion of the tale is set in Victorian times, the rest in a futuristic world in which ships sail on seas of air and princesses still need rescuing. A talented cast lends their voices to the alien tribe, among them William Dafoe and Samantha Morton, while Dejah's court is made up entirely of well-known British talent: James Purefoy, Cirian Hinds, and Dominic West. Mark Strong plays his usual villain, with delighted enthusiasm.
Visually, the film is stunning and it does have some emotional moments; among them is the befriending of Carter by a "dog-like" creature. The acting wavers from passable to decent. I found the costuming strange, and not entirely flattering to the cast, but the epic sky battles make up for its downfalls. There are moments when it lags. It also does not explain everything, which means we never know why one character has been so often punished and is looked down on by her fellow tribesmen. Some of its elements are downright cruel.
Christian audiences will find the pagan element interesting; there are references to goddesses but most of their discoveries lead to scientific explanations instead of deities (although, one advanced race uses religion to propagate their cause). Subtle political inferences are made on the nature of mankind. Maybe I'm just a sci-fi junkie. Maybe I'm a bit biased when it comes to epic tales. But I enjoyed it.
Scattered mild profanities ("hell").
Huge amount of sci-fi violence; ships exploding, people being sliced in half; green blood spurting; Carter is crushed under a giant creature whom he then cuts his way through (emerges covered in blood); some animal abuse; stabbings, shootings, branding is used as punishment; we also see a stream of urine.